Defence Minister Ron Mark is welcomed on board HMNZS Canterbury by the ship’s Commanding Officer, Commander Matt Wray, and Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Emma Broederlow.
29 October 2017
Defence Minister Ron Mark has spent today visiting New Zealand Defence Force personnel and troops from 12 other countries taking part in Exercise Southern Katipo, the NZDF’s biggest military exercise.
The biennial exercise at the top of the South Island, which began on 20 October and runs until 24 November, is designed to test and evaluate the NZDF’s ability to plan and conduct joint operations involving a range of naval, land, and air assets.
Mr Mark, who was hosted on his first visit to the Defence Force as Minister by the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Tim Gall, began the day at the main operating base for the exercise’s Combined Joint Task Force at Omaka Airfield near Blenheim, where headquarters, logistics, and medical staff for over 2000 people on the exercise are located. The Minister also visited a detachment from No 3 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, which is operating an A109 and three NH90 helicopters from Omaka during the exercise.
The Minister then flew via NH90 to the Royal New Zealand Navy’s multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury at Picton, which was in the process of evacuating simulated Internally Displaced Persons from a camp at Linkwater, where 100 members of the local community acted as role-players caught up in the fictional conflict. This provided an opportunity for other government agencies and non-government organisations to train alongside the Defence Force for real-world scenarios. The role-players will travel to Nelson overnight on Canterbury.
Mr Mark said he was impressed by the professionalism of the units and personnel he had seen.
“The Defence Force has to be ready to carry out a wide range of complex tasks, often at very short notice and in challenging environments, and able to operate effectively with the Defence Forces of our friends and partners in the region and further afield, and other government agencies. They are also required to build strong relationships with civilian populations who can be under extreme stress as the result of armed conflict or natural disasters.
“I’ve seen today that they are well-trained for these tasks, and how in this exercise they are fine-tuning the skills and interoperability they need to be successful on deployments of all types,” Mr Mark said.