Able Diver Craig Smith checks his diving equipment during Operation Render Safe, a multinational operation to clear explosive remnants of war in the Solomon Islands. Photo: Australian Defence Force
30 September 2016
A Canterbury man is helping make communities in the Solomon Islands safe by clearing explosive remnants of World War II.
Able Diver (ADR) Craig Smith has been taking part in Operation Render Safe, a multinational operation led by the Australian Defence Force to dispose safely of unexploded World War II munitions.
“It’s been fantastic to help them out and they are also our main source of information,” ADR Smith, from the Royal New Zealand Navy diving and mine countermeasures ship HMNZS Manawanui, said.
“The Solomon Islanders have been living in an area scattered with tonnes of explosive ordnance for the past seven decades,” he said.
“Removing these hazards will give them a safe environment to live in and the kids will be able to jump in the water without being afraid of injuring or killing themselves.”
In the first week of the Render Safe operation, the combined multinational teams recovered 1389 items, weighing 3.7 tonnes, of unexploded ordnance.
The team of divers from Manawanui and explosive ordnance disposal experts from the Canadian Defence Force have recovered and detonated safely about 60 unexploded munitions, including a 250-pound bomb, during the operation.
ADR Smith joined the Navy four years ago, after graduating from St Thomas of Canterbury College.
“I wasn’t sure if I should follow my brothers’ footsteps and go to university or get ‘out of the box’ to see the world and have an interesting lifestyle,” he said.
“I know that sounds like a cliché but since joining the Navy I’ve had many opportunities to see the world, including South-East Asia.”
He said his role as a diver aboard Manawanui included maintaining the dive equipment, the decompression chamber and the diving bell.
ADR Smith spent his early years in Perth, in Western Australia, but moved with his family to settle in Leeston when he was 13.
He said he was still a true-blue Aussie, even though all his friends were All Blacks supporters.
“It’s good to keep up the rivalry in Manawanui,” he said.
About 200 personnel from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands and the United Kingdom have been participating in Operation render Safe.