02 September 2015
Around 40 engineers and skilled tradesmen from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) arrived today in the Cook Islands to lead a multinational task group that will relocate a critical fuel depot and refurbish public buildings in the South Pacific nation.
Captain Andrew Blackburn, Senior National Officer for the New Zealand contingent, said members of the New Zealand Army’s 2 Engineer Regiment will be working alongside around 20 military engineers from China, the United States and the United Kingdom as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight.
“New Zealand is a trusted and valued partner in the Pacific and Tropic Twilight demonstrates New Zealand’s commitment to the region,” he said.
“The exercise also offers an opportunity to practise the NZDF’s capability to deploy alongside other militaries to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Southwest Pacific,” he added.
Captain Blackburn said several schools and hospitals were being refurbished to increase their resistance to cyclones and address electrical safety concerns.
Tropic Twilight is a recurring activity and will be conducted this year in the northern Cook Islands atolls of Penrhyn and Manihiki from 31 August to 12 October.
“The New Zealand Aid Programme is supporting Tropic Twilight by funding the design, project management, purchase and transport of materials,” said Nick Hurley, New Zealand’s High Commissioner to the Cook Islands.
Mr Hurley said the new fuel depot was crucial to the Australian-funded Cook Islands Pacific Patrol Boat, Te Kukupa, undertaking long-range maritime surveillance patrols in the northern atolls, where a large proportion of illegal fishing occurs.
Holding this year’s activity in the Cook Islands has extra significance because it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the country’s self-governance in free association with New Zealand, he added.
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