New Zealand Defence Force

RNZAF Flight lieutenant recalls first look at Tonga after eruption

The Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft flew out within 48 hours of the eruption and was able to capture the first post-disaster photos. 

PMN News reports Flight Lieutenant Dave Evans says the crew didn't know what to expect. 

“Once we got up there, the thing that really struck me was the colour. Everything was a really strange colour as everything was covered in ash.

NZDF delivers aid supplies to cyclone-hit Tonga

Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy, the Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules carrying aid supplies and an initial assessment team led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is on its way for the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa on the main island of Tongatapu.

“We are working with MFAT to get aid supplies to Tonga as soon as possible and stand ready to provide further assistance as required,” Air Commodore McEvoy said.

NZDF helps to refurbish Cooks schools, hospitals

The senior national officer, Captain Andrew Blackburn, says the buildings are being refurbished to address potential electrical hazards and ensure they can better withstand cyclones.

Around 40 NZDF engineers, plumbers, carpenters and electricians are working alongside 20 military engineers from China, the United Kingdom and the United States to build a new fuel depot.

The depot will support maritime patrols working to combat illegal fishing in the northern Cooks.

NZ-led task force to help Pacific nations during future disasters

The multiple-national operation, called Tropic Twilight, will provide relief to the remote islands of the Pacific, such as the northern Cook Islands atoll of Manihiki.

In 1997, Cyclone Martin sent waves reportedly higher than coconut trees over the small island, killing 19 people.

And preventing future disasters has become a priority for the New Zealand Defence Force, which has been strengthening existing building on the island.

Cook Islands to benefit from Tropic Twilight

“Tropic Twilight is a regular joint exercise in the Pacific involving the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and other countries with an interest in the region,” Brownlee says.

“The exercise is aimed at testing the NZDF’s ability to deploy alongside other militaries and partner-governments to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Pacific.

Fuel depot upgrade planned for Cooks' Penrhyn

One of the main projects for the force's Tropic Twilight exercise is the relocation and rebuilding of the fuel depot on Penrhyn.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully says improving fuel storage will enable better use of the patrol boat Te Kukupa to carry out fisheries surveillance around the islands.

The force's engineers will also upgrade buildings on Manihiki.

The exercise will involve China, the United States, the UK and France and is aimed at testing the force's abilities to provide disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.