A multinational coalition of 2500 troops from 13 countries, backed by amphibious ships – including Australia’s HMAS Choules – aircraft and armoured vehicles, is currently deployed to New Zealand’s South Island as the New Zealand Defence Force conducts its largest military exercise, Southern Katipo.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Major General Tim Gall said the NZDF-led force established its presence last week at the top of the South Island, which has been recast as the fictional South Pacific country Becara.
“Through several operations in the South Pacific and South-East Asia, the NZDF has demonstrated that it can establish its forces offshore and conduct stability, support and humanitarian operations,” Major General Gall said.
“But we need to keep on testing and evaluating our expeditionary capability so that we are ready to respond before a crisis demands it.
“We have to keep enhancing our ability to conduct joint operations involving maritime, land and air assets and to work alongside our international defence partners.
“Southern Katipo covers the whole spectrum of operations in the maritime, land and air domains, from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to evacuation of civilians, delivery of humanitarian aid and maritime patrols, peacekeeping and conventional warfighting.”
This year’s scenario for Southern Katipo centres on unresolved ethnic rivalries between Becara’s Wesso majority and Havo minority as they 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 a multi-national Combined Joint Task Force.
Land Component Commander Brigadier Mike Shapland is leading the deployed multinational force for the exercise.
“We know what the mission is and what needs to be done to achieve it but actually carrying out the operation is the real test,” Brigadier Shapland said.
About 500 troops from Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, New Caledonia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Tonga, Timor Leste, the United Kingdom and the United States are also taking part in the NZDF’s biennial military exercise.
Hundreds of residents from Westport, Greymouth, Kaikoura and Havelock have also been tapped to play protesters, displaced Becarans and foreign nationals in need of evacuation.
New Zealand agencies supporting the exercise include the New Zealand Customs Service, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Police, Ministry for Primary Industries, Immigration New Zealand, Ministry of Health and New Zealand Transport Authority.