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Goff: New Explosive Ordnance Device Disposal HQ

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

26 May 2008

Speech Notes

Speech opening the new Explosive Ordnance Device Disposal HQ, Trentham

It is a pleasure to be here today to officially open this new Explosive Ordnance Disposal Headquarters and training facility.

Nearly three years ago, having regard to the potential threats posed by terrorism in the Twenty First Century, the Government made the decision to invest in this facility and the capabilities the 1st New Zealand Explosive Ordnance Squadron will provide.

It has involved a significant expenditure. Some $22 million has been invested in capital and operating costs to build the capability we need.

The prospect of a terrorist attack in New Zealand using chemical, biological or radiological devices is lower than in many other countries. Yet given the serious consequences of such as attack, we cannot afford to be complacent about.

In the current world environment, where threats to our country are less from conventional attacks and inter-state warfare than terrorist attacks and the consequence of failed states, it makes sense to strengthen our ability to respond in these areas.

The 1st New Zealand Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron will build up in size over the next 18 months to more than 72 personnel. Old equipment is being replaced with remote controlled robots, new detection devices and other electronic tools as well as new decontamination equipment and clothing.

Its headquarters and training base are in Upper Hutt and three new operational units will be sited close to CBDs and air and sea ports of our three largest cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. This will provide much improved response times across the country and greater overall security for New Zealand.

While the use of chemical, biological or radiological devices would have the most dramatic consequences, the probable risks are in the area of orthodox explosives.

The New Zealand Defence Force does considerable work in this area.

Within New Zealand, in the last year alone the EOD Squadron responded to 139 callouts. Eighty nine of these were explosive ordnance disposal tasks, and a further 50 were Improvised Explosive Device Disposal tasks.

This includes pipe bombs and other improvised devices, remnants of war, such as hand grenades and mortar bombs, the disposal of devices handed in to police stations, and end-of-life marine flares and other explosives.

In addition, a further 641 jobs were addressed using the Civilian Ammunition Inspectors. And the EOD squadron has conducted joint exercises with Police, Fire, Air Port Security and Customs at the tactical and operational level.

A fully coordinated response across all of government is important. I acknowledge the support of these and other agencies in contributing to the new capability we are creating.

Without this capability we would be unable to guarantee the level of protection required against terrorism and sabotage, and it would create risks around our ability to host internationally significant events, such as the Rugby World Cup.

Internationally, the New Zealand Defence Force has considerable experience and a proud track record of carrying out mine clearance and unexploded ordnance disposal.

Our Defence Force personnel have worked over recent years in Mozambique, Cambodia, Laos and Afghanistan. Last year we contributed two groups over a 12-month period to clearing up unexploded cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance in Lebanon.

Personnel from the Army and Navy did a superb job, clearing nearly a third of a million square metres of land and destroying more than 1800 unexploded cluster bombs and munitions.

As a result, local people could again use their land and live without fear that they and their children would be killed or maimed by cluster munitions which had not detonated.

Having this type of capability is clearly in New Zealand’s national interest.

Together the development of this facility, and the other Explosive Ordnance Disposal units, represents the type of preparedness the Government envisaged in 2005.

And while we hope and expect that there will not be the need to respond to a chemical, biological or radiological threat on our own shores, it is nevertheless important that we are prepared.

I would now like to declare this Headquarters officially open.


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