New Zealand’s Minister of Defence Ron Mark announced earlier this week that the NZDF would deploy 55 personnel and two NH90 helicopters to the Solomon Islands to provide support for the South Pacific country’s election.
CAPTION: A RNZAF no.3 SQN NH90 helicopter is loaded into a RAAF C-17 Globemaster III, on its way to the Solomon Islands for the first post RAMSI general election on the archipelago. NZDF photo.
Those assets began departing on Wednesday, with 17 personnel deploying on an RNZAF C-130 Hercules and 15 more personnel plus one helicopter on Thursday to Honiara on a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster.
The Globemaster was expected to make a second round trip this week to pick up the remaining personnel and another NH90 helicopter.
Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Brigadier Jim Bliss said the NZDF would be operating as part of a Combined Task Group led by the Australian Defence Force, in response to a request from the Solomon Islands government.
“The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and Solomon Islands Electoral Commission are leading the operation,” Brigadier Bliss said.
“The NZDF’s logistic support will contribute to the delivery of the election by Solomon Islands authorities by helping ensure that election materials and officials get to where they need to be,” he said.
“It also supports the New Zealand government’s goal of deepening defence engagement with our Pacific neighbours.”
The combined New Zealand-Australian operation will help transport officials and election materials to about 1200 polling stations spread across six main islands and a number of the 900 smaller islands that comprise the Solomon Islands.
“Helicopter transport capability is critical because the polling stations are spread out across an archipelago,” Brigadier Bliss said.
In January the NZDF delivered about two tonnes of voting equipment provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission.
The New Zealand Government has announced that it would also send election observers.
From 2003-2017 New Zealand and its Pacific partners contributed to restoring peace and stability in the Solomon Islands through the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
RAMSI, a partnership between the people and government of the Solomon Islands and 15 contributing countries of the Pacific region, stabilised the political and security situation following five years of internal conflict and security challenges.
The general election on 3 April is the first since the RAMSI concluded in 2017.