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Contributed by New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF)

A multinational task group led by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) today handed over a new fuel depot built as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight to Cook Islands officials.

Exercise Tropic Twilight 15

Several schools and hospitals that were repaired by a team comprising of military engineers and skilled tradesmen from China, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States were also handed over at an official ceremony in the northern Cook Islands atoll of Penrhyn.

“The past six weeks have been an invaluable opportunity to work alongside and learn from our international peers,” said Captain Andrew Blackburn, Senior National Officer for the New Zealand contingent.

“Tropic Twilight also offered an opportunity to practise the NZDF’s capability to deploy alongside other militaries to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR),” he added.

Major General Tim Gall, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) participation in Tropic Twilight for the first time resulted from a decision by China and New Zealand to increase professional cooperation especially in the area of HADR.

“It was agreed that participation by PLA engineers in Tropic Twilight would be a logical next step in developing the relationship,” Major General Gall said.

Exercise Tropic Twilight is a recurring activity conducted this year in the northern Cook Islands’ atoll of Penrhyn and Manihiki from 31 August – 12 October. It is held in partnership with the government of the Cook Islands and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which funded the new fuel depot and the other infrastructure improvements being delivered as part of the exercise. The FAPF (Forces Armees en Polynesie francaise) are also supporting the humanitarian activity.

Nick Hurley, New Zealand’s High Commissioner to the Cook Islands said relocating and upgrading the Penrhyn fuel depot has helped avert a potential oil spill.

The new fuel depot in Penrhyn

“The new fuel depot will refuel the Australian-funded Cook Islands Pacific Patrol Boat Te Kukupa, which conducts long-range maritime patrols against illegal fishing in the northern Cooks,” he said.

Around 40 engineers, plumbers, carpenters, and electricians from the NZDF’s 2nd Engineer Regiment worked alongside 20 military engineers from the PLA, the Royal Regiment, and the US Army Pacific to build the new fuel depot. Schools and hospitals were refurbished to address potential electrical hazards to ensure they can better withstand the cyclones that regularly affect the Pacific Islands.

The handover ceremony was attended by Cook Islands officials led by Deputy Prime Minister Teariki Heather, Brigadier General Stephen Curda of the US Army’s 9th Mission Support Command, and Brigadier Antony Hayward from the NZDF.