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NZ Defence Force Arrives To Warm Welcome In Tonga

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
NZ Defence Force Arrives To Warm Welcome In Tonga

New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel arrived yesterday to a warm welcome by the locals of Niuatoputapu. The tiny island within the island nation of Tonga was devastated by a tsunami following the 2009 Samoan earthquake and suffered significant damage.

The HMNZS CANTERBURY, Seasprite and Iroqouis helicopters assisted in Niuatoputapu after the initial tsunami hit, and Defence is now returning to provide further assistance and will be there for nine days as part of Pacific Partnership 2011. The New Zealand Government is supporting the development work being carried out in Tonga with funding of $250,000 from the New Zealand Aid Programme.

Work on the island will focus on the local clinic, primary school and high school as well as the channel and wharf area of Niuatoputapu. NZ Defence Force personnel will assist in the on-going clearance of tsunami debris, rebuilding and refurbishing schools on the island and surveying wharf damage to prevent further damage and erosion. Further NZ Defence Force efforts will include providing health and dental clinics for locals, such as preventative dental presentations for school pupils and first aid training for the populace.

The NZ Defence Force Commander of the exercise, Lieutenant Colonel Donald Jones said the arrival at Niuatoputapu went very well.

"It is great to be here and to get started, we had a nice welcome from the local officials and we discussed the assistance we would provide over the next week within their community. The HMNZS CANTERBURY is currently anchored off the reef and has commenced underwater surveys of the channels in preparation for the busy week ahead, while the FANC (Forces Armees de la Nouvelle Caledonie) PUMA will continue to move personnel and loads of materials."

Local Niuatoputapu dignitary, Lord Tangipa, said the education and health of the community is vital. "We are very grateful, and the work NZ Defence will be doing at our local schools and in and around our coastlines will benefit our community as a whole."

The NZ Defence Force contingent will supply several new water tanks for the population of Niuatoputapu which will be invaluable as the island has insufficient sources of fresh water to rely on in emergencies. Locals on Niuatoputapu will be provided with basic tool sets and paint supplies allowing them to assist with the building projects being undertaken.

The name Niuatoputapu means sacred island, and the current population is just under 900 people. Pacific Partnership is a US-led humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) exercise carried out with partner nations throughout the Pacific. The exercise aims to increase interoperability and deliver medical, dental, veterinary and engineering services. Niuatoputapu is the first location Defence will be providing aid and assistance, the second is Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu.

This is the largest scale of NZ Defence Force participation in Pacific Partnership, dedicating over 200 personnel to the exercise.

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