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NZDF Exercise Tests Evacuation Plan

Community volunteers are evacuated onto a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft as part of the scenario.
Community volunteers are evacuated onto a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft as part of the scenario.

4 November 2015

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and its partners conducted a simulated evacuation of civilians today as part of Exercise Southern Katipo 2015 (SK15).

The training simulated a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) and was an opportunity to demonstrate and evaluate the ability to safely evacuate civilians who wish to leave a country as a result of a deteriorating security situation or a natural disaster.

The exercise involves a fictitious South-West Pacific country called Becara which is in a state of political instability and unrest, and the deteriorating situation has warranted a voluntary evacuation of civilians.

"A key part of this exercise was for the NZDF to respond to a deteriorating security situation with the focus of protecting citizens as they are evacuated from their homes to a ship or airport for travel onwards to a safe destination," said Commodore John Campbell, Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force for SK15.

In real-life situations, an evacuation plan would be administered under the direction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) with the NZDF playing a key role.

"Evacuations of citizens are normally managed by the embassy or high commissioner in the area. However our skills and capabilities are called upon to protect and transport civilians in these situations,” said Commodore Campbell.

As part of the simulation the NZDF, MFAT, and international defence personnel arranged evacuee assembly and processing, before the evacuees were transported to Westport Airport for evacuation via a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft.

"In all modern militaries, 'train like you fight' is something we always say. This exercise creates conditions to practice a NEO and gives us the training we need for real-world situations," said Captain Tom Sunderland, a Canadian infantry officer.

"It is all about the coordination of what we do as a military and what the high commission does and the processes the consular staff perform. Military are just one of the players and we have to tie into the plan,” said Captain Sunderland.

The simulated evacuation involved more than 100 local residents who acted as evacuees.

Exercise Southern Katipo (SK15) is the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) major military exercise and occurs every two years. Personnel from New Zealand and eight other countries - Australia, Canada, Fiji, France, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, the United Kingdom, and the United States will participate in the month-long international exercise in the Buller, Tasman and Marlborough regions of the South Island.

ENDS

For more information please contact Defence Public Affairs on 021 487 980

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