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Prime Minister To Farewell NZDF Engineers To Iraq

New Zealand Defence Force
Te Ope Kaatua O Aotearoa

Wednesday 24 September 2003
Media Advisory

Prime Minister To Farewell NZDF Engineers To Iraq

Prime Minister, Rt Hon Helen Clark and Minister of Defence, Hon Mark Burton will join the acting Chief of Defence Force, Rear Admiral, Peter McHaffie, Deputy Chief of Army, Brigadier Rick Ottaway and other NZDF personnel to farewell the main contingent leaving for Iraq on Friday 26 September 2003 from RNZAF Base Ohakea at 0900 hours.

Media are invited to attend the farewell for the 53 NZDF personnel, including 35 engineers, and will be met by a media escort at the main gate at 0800 hours.

The Light Engineer Group will undertake humanitarian, rehabilitation and reconstruction work in South-east Iraq alongside a United Kingdom engineering unit.

They will perform a diverse range of tasks including: the repair and refurbishment of hospitals, health clinics, school and government buildings; the restoration of electricity infrastructure; and the repair of bridges and water pipelines.

In total the New Zealand Government has committed 61 NZDF personnel to Iraq, consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 1483.

An advance party of nine personnel left for Iraq on Sunday 14 September 2003 to begin work and prepare for the main contingents arrival. One will return home on the arrival of the main contingent.


New Zealand Defence Force
Te Ope Kaatua O Aotearoa



61 NZDF personnel are being deployed as a Light Engineer Group to South-east Iraq to undertake humanitarian and reconstruction tasks consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 1483 and will work alongside a UK engineer unit.

Who is working in the Light Engineer Group?

The Light Engineer Group consists of military engineers and logistical support staff. The engineers are a mix of tradesmen (carpenters, plumbers and electricians) and field engineers. The logistical support staff are a mix of cooks, medics, stores personnel, electrical technicians, and vehicle mechanics. They will provide logistical support to the engineer group and maintain equipment. The focus of the Light Engineer Group is on assisting the reconstruction of the Iraqi nation through provision of engineer support to the local population.

The Light Engineer Group is deployed as part of the post conflict Operation Iraqi Freedom and is not involved in security operations in Iraq.

What sorts of tasks will the Light Engineer Group undertake?

The Light Engineer Group will work alongside the UK forces in South-east Iraq to repair and refurbish hospitals, health clinics, schools, police stations, law courts, and municipal and government buildings. In addition, they will assist in restoring electricity, and the rebuilding of bridges and water pipelines and provide humanitarian assistance to the local population in the form of operation of town supply reverse osmosis water plants.

How many people in the Light Engineer Group?

The Light Engineer Group consists of 61 military personnel from the New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Navy, comprising of four staff officers, 40 engineers and 16 logistical support staff.

How long is the deployment intended for?

The deployment of a Light Engineer Group is intended to be maintained for 12 months, personnel being rotated at 6 months.

Why contribute a Light Engineer Group?

UN Security Council Resolution 1483 made it clear that the UN has a vital role to play in the post-war period. It appealed to UN member states to assist the people of Iraq in their efforts to rebuild their country and to contribute to conditions of stability and security in Iraq. Under Resolution 1483, NZ can make a useful contribution without in any way becoming an occupying power.

As the current situation in Iraq shows, there is an urgent need for the kind of civil reconstruction and support that New Zealand can offer.

Do we have adequate equipment and vehicles for this deployment?

The Light Engineer Group is deploying with sufficient construction and self-protection equipment to conduct its intended role in Iraq. There is a requirement to hire vehicles for the Light Engineer Group to operate in Iraq.

Where will the Light Engineer group be located?

The majority of the Light Engineer Group personnel will be located at a UK camp approximately 30 minutes southwest of Basra International Airport. Two of the NZDF staff officers will be stationed at the UK headquarters at the Basra International Airport, and two staff officers will be sent to the UK Engineer Headquarters in the township of Basra.

How much will it cost?

The total approximate cost to New Zealand of the Light Engineer Group deployment in Iraq for 12 months is $NZ 10 million.

How will the Light Engineer Group be staffed?

The NZDF can sustain a Light Engineer Group of around 61 personnel, drawn from each of the three services, and including both servicemen and women. There may also be scope for Territorial Force involvement.

What experience does the NZDF have in this type of operation?

The government has the greatest confidence in our military personnel, including
their ability to undertake civil-military duties. In previous deployments – including in environments as diverse as East Timor, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Bosnia and the Middle East – New Zealanders have been respected for their professionalism and their ability to engage and relate to the local people. This type of task is indicative of the wide-ranging, and increasingly complex nature of modern peacekeeping operations.

What is the security situation?

Iraq is a difficult and challenging environment, but the NZDF is ideally suited to undertake this work, which is so vital to restoring normality for the Iraqi people. There are risks to our personnel (including environmental risks) and it will obviously be necessary for them to be able to protect themselves. As is the case with all deployments, the situation will be closely monitored to ensure that conditions allow the NZDF to undertake the tasks for which they were deployed.

Are our soldiers at risk from Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions?

All personnel being deployed into areas where DU may have been used are briefed on any potential risks that may be posed by DU. The NZDF will continue to provide medical checks and support to any personnel who think they may have been exposed.

How will the Light Engineer Group be supplied?

The UK-led headquarters in South-east Iraq have undertaken to provide the Light Engineer Group with logistic support. Resupply flights from New Zealand will be conducted throughout the duration of the deployment.

What are the command and control arrangements?

As with all deployments, the Chief of Defence Force will maintain full command of the Light Engineer Group, with operational command of deployed NZDF personnel the responsibility of the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand. The Commander will appoint a Senior National Officer (SNO) to perform a similar function for the Light Engineer Group.

Deployed personnel will only be employed in those locations and on those specific tasks and duties that have been agreed between the government and the international coalition. The SNO would be authorised to withhold the services of NZDF personnel if any task or proposed action is considered outside the scope of the Light Engineer Group mandate, compromises New Zealand’s national position, or may adversely affect New Zealand’s national interests.

Are forces from other countries working in Southeast Iraq?

Personnel from Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Norway, Portugal, and Lithuania are also working alongside British forces.

What is the UN Iraq resolution?

UNMOVIC was established by the United Nations to replace the former UN Special Commission (UNSCOM). The UNMOVIC mandate is to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and to operate a system of ongoing monitoring and verification to check Iraq’s compliance with its obligations not to reacquire weapons prohibited to it by the UN Security Council.

The UN has now also approved a new resolution (1483) on Iraq. This is an important step towards greater international involvement in reconstruction efforts there. The resolution welcomes the establishment of the broadly representative Government Council of Iraq as an important step towards the formation of an internationally recognised and representative government in Iraq.

The resolution also establishes the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq to support the Secretary General’s mandate (under resolution 1483) that the UN should play a vital role in humanitarian relief, reconstruction, and the restoration of national and local representative government in Iraq.

The New Zealand Government supports the establishment of the Governing Council of Iraq and welcomes the passage of this new resolution. It provides a sound basis for the engagement of the international community in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

The resolution reinforces the importance of the international community and the UN working alongside the coalition to ensure the success of reconstruction efforts in Iraq.


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