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Government to fund helicopter for Aceh relief

Government to fund helicopter for Aceh relief

Foreign Minister Phil Goff has welcomed the development of a New Zealand private-public sector partnership to deliver immediate assistance to areas devastated by the Asian tsunami.

Mr Goff said the government would provide funding for a New Zealand company operating helicopters in Kalimantan (Borneo) to deliver urgently-needed relief supplies in Aceh, Indonesia.

"The government's aid agency, NZAID, will provide $300,000 to cover the costs of the Bell 212 helicopter for up to 30 days," Mr Goff said.

"The helicopter is owned by Jakarta-based National Utility Helicopters (NUH), and is currently based in East Kalimantan. It will leave for Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, tomorrow.

"Once in Aceh, the helicopter will be used to conduct various relief operations including reconnaissance, liaison and light transport. The Bell may stay longer in the region if required and if additional funding can be secured.

"NZAID is working closely with the New Zealand and Australian Defence Forces, which have both sent medical teams to Aceh. The Australians will have primary responsibility for tasking the helicopter, and their aid agency, Ausaid, will cover fuel costs.

“It is good to see New Zealand and Australians, in both the public and private sectors, working together to provide relief to those affected by the tsunami.

"We are very grateful to NUH and its representative in New Zealand, Peter Green, who has been of great assistance in arranging logistics and securing highly competitive terms for the lease of the helicopter.

"Officials at NZAID are talking to other helicopter companies in New Zealand about linking them up in a similar way with international donors and the United Nations.”

Mr Goff also confirmed that he and Prime Minister Helen Clark would attend the international summit on tsunami relief and reconstruction in Jakarta on January 6.

"This is an important meeting of regional leaders and New Zealand is honoured to be invited to join. Our attendance will ensure New Zealand's aid commitments fit appropriately within a coordinated international response," Mr Goff said.

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