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Army And Navy To Assist With NZAID Niue Projects

New Zealand Defence Force
Te Ope Kaatua O Aotearoa
Media Release

Monday May 23, 2005

Army And Navy To Assist With NZAID Projects In Niue

122 strong New Zealand Defence Force team deploy to Niue tomorrow from RNZAF Air Base Ohakea as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight. Tropic Twilight is a dual sponsored activity with both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the New Zealand Agency of International Development (NZAID).

The exercise will assist with the rebuilding and development of the civil infrastructure with NZ AID funding after many buildings suffered extensive damage during Cyclone HETA.

Army engineers from 2 Engineer Regiment and medical personnel from 2 Health Services Battalion based at Linton Military Camp and Navy personnel from the RNZN Hydrographic ship, HMNZS RESOLUTION will undertake a variety of civic tasks that have been identified by an earlier visit to the island.

The exercise will also allow Defence personnel the opportunity to employ their specialist skills, conduct training, practise low-level operations in a tropical environment and promote closer relations with Niue. The main body will return to NZ June 17, 2005.

Departure details:

RNZAF Boeing 757

10:55 am

RNZAF Air Base Ohakea

Yesterday, a RNZAF C130 Hercules departed for Niue carrying additional stores, equipment and building material. The bulk of material was transported by commercial ship to Niue earlier this month.

SUMMARY MFAT / NZ AID - NIUE

There is a special relationship between Niue and New Zealand. Since 1974 Niue has been self-governing in free association with New Zealand, a status distinct from full independence. New Zealand has a statutory obligation under the Niue Constitution Act 1974 "to provide necessary economic and administrative assistance to Niue" Niue manages its own affairs in all respects except foreign affairs and defence. All Niueans are New Zealand citizens.

Between 1901 and 1974 Niue was a dependent territory of New Zealand. NZAID, the Government's international aid and development agency, provides assistance for Niue of approximately $8.25 million per year. Most of this ($5.75 million) is in the form of budget support and enables Niue to provide essential services to the population.

In November 2004, the NZ Prime Minister and Niue's Premier signed the 'Halavaka Ke He Monuina' Arrangement - outlining a $20 million (approx) strengthened programme of cooperation over the next 5 years.

Cyclone Heta, struck Niue on January 5 2004 with winds gusting 300km/h and enormous waves. The main village, Alofi, was destroyed and the rest of the island devastated. The storm destroyed much of the Niue's infrastructure including roads, the hospital and main wharf.

Depopulation has magnified the impact of Cyclone Heta and rebuilding is proving an enormous task. Since Cyclone Heta struck in January 2004, additional funding of $4.5 million has gone towards:

a. funding for heavy equipment (diggers etc) to clear debris;

b. funds to build houses to replace government tenant houses damaged in cyclone. (These are needed for skilled professionals vital to Niue's recovery and development);

c. asbestos clearing from old roofs;

d. repairs and re-roofing of damaged houses;

e. recovery project manager; and

f. assistance for the private sector, to meet needs identified by the Niue Private Sector Taskforce.

Right now there is a real opportunity to secure Niue's future.

Private sector investment is taking place in industries including fishing, tourism and crops such as vanilla and noni. Tourism development, particularly, has significant potential, as Niue is an attractive visitor destination. Private investment plus Government support for growing commercial enterprise means a viable economic future is possible and realistic.

TASK SUMMARY - NIUE

AIRPORT APPROACH CLEARANCE

Many large trees are growing in the approach fan to the west of Hanan Airport. These trees obscure the airport landing lights as aircraft approach from the west (the usual approach direction due to the pre-dominant south east trade winds). The Director of Civil Aviation has requested Army assistance in felling the large trees in order to clear the approach fan.

A field engineer team of 10 personnel is expected to take 6 days to complete the task.

This task provides excellent training value for the field engineer section, providing an opportunity to fell large trees within a tropical forest environment. The Clearance of the Airport Approach will assist the Niue Civil Aviation authorities in ensuring the airport conforms to NZ Civil Aviation Authority standards for International Airports. It will enhance safety for aircraft using the airport. All regular scheduled services currently land and depart during hours of darkness.

INDUSTRIAL PARK KITSET BUILDING

This task involves the construction of one of two "TOTALSPAN" kitset buildings that have already been funded (by NZAID) and delivered to Niue. Once construction is complete the two buildings will provide a light industrial park for local business that were destroyed by Cyclone HETA.

This construction project will be undertaken in partnership with the private sector task force, and supported by the Public Works Department. It will also provide on-the-job training for local tradesmen, arming them with sufficient knowledge and experience to subsequently construct the second kitset building when in a position to do so.

This task provides excellent training value for a construction team deployed within a tropical environment. The steel-stud kitset building presents a construction technique seldom used by Army engineers. It provides for the achievement of a number of apprentice competencies for carpenter, plumber and electrician apprentices. It provides the opportunity for field engineers with a basic carpentry qualification to further develop their construction skills. The project is expected to take 18 days to complete.

The light industrial park is a very high priority project for Niue, and is seen as essential to re-establishing many small businesses, devastated by Cyclone HETA. It will provide new and functional premises for small businesses, in a more enduring location on higher ground away from the coast. This is seen as essential to rebuilding and stabilizing the local economy.

MEDICAL SUPPORT TASKS

There are four elements to the medical support tasks for Niue. They include the following:

a. Medical support and relief to the Niue Health Clinic Staff,

b. Community Health Team - village education and environmental health advice,

c. First Aid Training for Government department staff, and

d. Dental Assistance to Niue dental services.

The local medical staff at the Niue Health Clinic is currently stretched to capacity. The provision of some temporary medical assistance at the Health Clinic in the form of one Medical Officer and two nurses will provide some welcome relief to the local staff.

A Community Health Team would deploy to assist Public Health Officers with community based health education, as well as providing environmental health advice.

A strong local demand for first aid training was identified during the reconnaissance. A first-aid training team would conduct first aid training for staff from various government departments, including the Public Works Department, the Electricity Department, the Ambulance staff and nurses at the Niue Health Clinic.

The Niue dental services are currently constrained by lack of dental equipment. A dental team with deployable dental equipment well operate either at the Primary School or Health Clinic.

These tasks provide excellent training value for each element of the medical team. The opportunity to work within a resource constrained tropical environment will test their flexibility and initiative. The nature of work will likely be very different to routine activity in support of NZ-based Army personnel.

The local community will benefit through the provision of enhanced medical and dental services, community health education and first aid training for government department staff.

SEA TRACK REPAIRS

This task involves repairs and refurbishment work on six coastal sea tracks. The sea tracks are owned by local villages, but maintained by the Niue Tourism Board in conjunction with the Public Works Department. The sea tracks are important to the people of Niue to gain access to the lagoon and sea for fishing. They are also important to tourism, providing access to scenic locations for leisure and recreation. The Tourism Board considers the six sea tracks identified as the highest priority sea tracks for use by tourists.

The sea tracks will be refurbished and repaired through the removal of large obstacles (rocks, logs and scrub) and the construction of over-ramps, paths, stairs and handrails.

The majority of construction stores and materials have been imported from New Zealand, prior to the task commencement.

This task provides excellent training value for field engineers deployed within a tropical environment. The sea track refurbishment will enhance the tourism opportunities on the island of Niue. The donation of two quad bikes and trailers with some light clearance and construction equipment will enhance the ability of the Niue Tourism Board to effectively maintain all of their sea track and scenic site locations for use by tourists. Improvements in these areas will help to stabilize the local economy through increased tourist activity on Niue. The sea track refurbishment will also increase local population access to the sea for fishing.

VINIVINI TRACK CLEARANCE

The Vinivini Track is a walking track through the Huvalu Forest Conservation Area. It has been considered one of the islands best tourist attractions prior to Cyclone HETA, providing an opportunity for tourists to experience undisturbed tropical rainforest. The track is approximately 7.4 km long, however 3.5 km of the track is now impassable to all but the most determined trampers (armed with a machetes). Many large trees have fallen along the track. In the disturbed areas, vines and scrub have grown amongst the fallen trees to create a tangle of vegetation more dense than the surrounding rainforest.

It is proposed to employ field engineers to clear the track, restoring it to a condition that will enable easy tourist access along the length of the track. This will largely involve manual effort aided by chainsaws and scrub cutters.

Clearance of the Vinivini Track is a significant task and currently lies beyond the resources of the Niue Tourist Department, who are responsible for maintaining the track. Clearance of the track will restore a significant tourist attraction, thus contributing to the local economy.

PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT EQUIPMENT REPAIRS

The Public Works Department is responsible for the operation and maintenance of all the Government owned plant and equip on Niue. This includes dozers, graders, loaders, forklifts, trucks, an excavator, and quarry equipment. They also maintain the heavy crane, two lighters and search and rescue boat, all of which are essential to the monthly process of unloading cargo containers from the freight ship.

The heavy equipment is maintained in a partially cyclone-damaged makeshift workshop as Cyclone HETA destroyed the main workshop. Much of the equipment has been adversely affected by the exposure to salt water during the cyclone. There is a shortage of repair equipment and the local staff has limited repair experience. An Australian mechanic (funded by AUSAID) is assisting the local staff. The two large lighters used to unload cargo containers from the freight ship are in poor state of repair. Considerable work is required to weld and rust proof the lighters to ensure they remain seaworthy and safe to operate. The local staff would benefit from some training in the operation and servicing of plant and equipment, as well as quarry management and development advice.

Vehicle mechanics, maintenance fitters, plant operators and drivers will assist in addressing some of the problems caused by Cyclone HETA. The vehicle mechanics would assist in returning plant and equipment to operational service, providing some relief to the Australian mechanic as well as on the job training for local staff. The maintenance fitters would assist the local staff in effecting repairs to the two lighters, welding and rust proofing them to return them to safe seaworthy condition. The plant operators and drivers would provide training to local staff in operating and servicing plant and equipment. Fleet management and quarry management advice would also be provided in order that the local staff will be better positioned to manage these assets in the future. The plant operators and drivers will also be available to assist with other civic action tasks should they require plant or vehicle assistance from the Public Works Department.

This task provides excellent training value for the equipment support personnel, placing them in a situation where they will need to improvise and adapt to local conditions, while interacting with local staff to pass on their knowledge and advice. The plant operators and drivers will have the opportunity to provide informal and on-the-job training to the local staff, as well as confronting the challenges of servicing equipment in poor state with relatively limited repair infrastructure.

This work will have a significant benefit to the entire island of Niue, as the equipment operated by the Public Works Department is essential to the continuing functioning of the island.

Ends

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