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NZDF involvement in Solomon Islands scaled back

28 October 2003 Media Statement

NZDF involvement in Solomon Islands to be scaled back

In keeping with the overall scaling down of the Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands (RAMSI), New Zealand’s military contingent will be decreased over the coming months, Minister of Defence Mark Burton announced today.

During their recent visit to the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Mark Burton were briefed on the good progress being made by RAMSI, and advised that, if such progress continued, a reduction in military presence would soon be appropriate.

Currently, New Zealand has 230 Defence Force (NZDF) personnel in RAMSI, including a detachment of four helicopters, an infantry company, headquarters support staff, logistics, communications, an engineering element, and a small medical group, working alongside Pacific partners in the Australian-led mission.

The helicopter detachment is expected to remain in the Solomon Islands until January 2004. It will then likely be reduced to two helicopters, which should return to New Zealand at the end of May 2004. The infantry company will be replaced, probably by an NZDF platoon, which will join a multi-nation Pacific company and remain in the Solomon Islands until mid-2004. In addition, the 25 support staff will also likely remain until May 2004.

Mark Burton said that scaling back the Defence Force component was the next logical step in achieving RAMSI’s goals.

“To date, this deployment has been very successful, with all NZDF elements working well in support of the police contingent. Our personnel are also playing a key role in facilitating civil and humanitarian assistance, providing helicopter transport, and engineers for refurbishment of facilities. They will continue in these roles, but in a reduced capacity.

“The military phase of RAMSI was always going to be the first step in assisting the Solomon Islands government to restore stability to their nation—a process which, by its very nature will take time. Although our military presence is being scaled back, New Zealand continues to play a significant role in supporting the Solomon Islands, with 35 New Zealand police officers scheduled to remain there for up to two years. In addition, NZAID is providing funding for a range of crucial programmes, including basic education, electricity supply, improved governance, and public sector reform.
“This phase of RAMSI has proven to be a successful example of regional partners working together to support the restoration of legitimate Solomon Islands’ government authority.

“The return of stability to the Solomon Islands is vital for the security of our region. The men and women of the NZDF continue to make a value contribution to RAMSI, and their outstanding work is playing a significant part in achieving this goal,” said Mark Burton.

ENDS

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