The New Zealand Defence Force has signed a contractor to carry out additional clearance of five firing ranges used by its Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Bamyan province in Afghanistan.
FILE PHOTO (2011): A New Zealand soldier and NZLAV on patrol in north-east Bamyian province, Afghanistan. NZDF photo.
The contractor, Organisation for Mine clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR), sent a team to the area yesterday to make an initial assessment and set up field offices.
Non-technical survey teams will then go to the area to start work.
The NZDF operated the ranges to fire non-explosive small-arms rounds, as well as some high-explosive rounds, for a decade until the Provincial Reconstruction Team left Afghanistan in 2013.
Before the NZDF team started operations the land was used by Russian and United States forces for live firing.
When the NZDF team withdrew from Afghanistan in 2013, it cleared the firing ranges in accordance with the standards of the time.
However, after the NZDF deployments finished, the International Security Assistance Force introduced a new standard for range clearance, which was then adopted by the Afghan Directorate of Mine Action Coordination.
To meet that new standard the NZDF has signed a contract with OMAR, an Afghanistan-based organisation that has been operating for 27 years.
It is experienced in range-clearance work and has extensive history working with aid-related non-government organisations throughout Afghanistan.
The tender document released by the NZDF in early February placed greater weight on aspects such as health and safety, methodology and qualification of personnel involved than on price.
It also placed an emphasis on mine awareness education.
OMAR won the tender from 10 other contenders, after being deemed the best option to meet the NZDF’s requirements.
The Afghan Directorate of Mine Action Coordination, which will oversee the clearance work, has estimated that it will take up to 52 weeks to complete.
However, the work will be spread over two calendar years, because much of Bamyan Province is covered by snow for five to six months each year, which will have an impact on de-mining activities.
The combined value of contracts signed with OMAR and Afghan Directorate of Mine Action Coordination is about NZ$6.2 million, subject to currency fluctuations.
NZDF said the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic had already affected the project, slowing the contract process, and it may have further impact.