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Strong Public Support for NZDF's Largest Military Exercise

A Sailor from the Royal New Zealand Navy assists in putting a life jacket on one of the role players during the mock IDP evacuation.
A Sailor from the Royal New Zealand Navy assists in putting a life jacket on one of the role players during the mock IDP evacuation.

30 October 2017

About 150 volunteers took part as role-players last weekend in Exercise Southern Katipo, reflecting the strong public support for the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) largest military exercise.

An “internally displaced people’s” (IDP) camp was established on Friday at Smith's Farm ‎Holiday Camp, near Havelock in Marlborough. About 150 locals, who were role playing as refugees, spent two nights in tents sharing facilities and resources before being evacuated by bus to Picton, where they boarded HMNZS Canterbury for an overnight sail to Nelson.

“Most operations these days require the collective capabilities of many military and civilian partners to succeed, and that is borne by a number of activities that are unfolding in this exercise, such as the evacuation of displaced civilians,” Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said.

“We operate as part of either a military or other government agency coalition in nearly everything we do, and the challenges posed to exercise participants simulate those that we encounter in operations.”

About 12 non-governmental organisations, including Oxfam, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Childfund International, worked alongside the NZDF and government agencies including New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ministry of Health and Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to evacuate displaced civilians.

"We began the exercise by holding a workshop before setting up the IDP camp," Mark Mitchell, of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, said.

"Exercise Southern Katipo 17 presented a realistic scenario where people had to flee and NGOs, government agencies, and military members worked together to register, harbour, feed, support and provide security to a group of 150 volunteer IDPs.

“The training opportunity was valuable in helping learn how to coordinate efforts and communicate with each other."

A multinational coalition of 2500 troops from 13 countries, backed by amphibious ships, aircraft and armoured vehicles, has deployed to the South Island for the NZDF’s biennial exercise.

In the exercise scenario, the top of the South Island has been recast as the fictional South Pacific country Becara, where unresolved ethnic rivalries between the country’s Wesso majority and Havo minority explode into a new wave of violence two years after a multinational force led by the NZDF helped restore peace and stability.

Unable to quell the fast-spreading unrest, which has caused large numbers of the population to flee their homes, the government of Becara has again sought international assistance. New Zealand has come to the aid of its South Pacific neighbour and is leading the multinational Combined Joint Task Force.

Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 aims to enhance the NZDF's ability to operate in the South West Pacific with defence partners, other government agencies, and NGOs.

The exercise, which began on 9 October and will conclude on 20 November, features activity in Marlborough, Nelson and the West Coast.

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