One NZ ship arrives in Fiji, another heads

  • 28/02/2016
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee

The HMNZS Wellington has arrived in Fiji and will head to the northern Lau group of islands where the HMNZS Canterbury will also be sent.

They're part of an international relief effort in the wake of Cyclone Winston, which killed 42 people and left tens of thousands homeless in Fiji last weekend.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says a New Zealand Air Force P3K2 Orion was one of the first on the scene after the cyclone to do reconnaissance work.

Then C-130 Hercules flights carried initial relief supplies and personnel and the NZ Air Force's Boeing 757 took personnel and relief equipment and stores to Fiji.

Members of an advance party of New Zealand Defence Force engineers have already been felling trees at the village of Driti, about 50km north of Suva, an area that bore the brunt of the storm.

"This large deployment of personnel, ships and aircraft shows how committed New Zealand is to support the government and people of Fiji as they respond to this disaster," Mr Brownlee says.

The HMNZS Wellington has 60 tonnes of aid and 71 military personnel on board. The HMNZS Canterbury left Auckland on Sunday evening.

Lieutenant Commander Matt Kaio, the commanding officer of HMNZS Wellington, says the offshore patrol vessel will refuel in Suva, and will load three tonnes of food and take six members of Fiji's military forces on board.

One task when it reaches the northern Lau group of islands is to identify beaches suitable for the HMNZS Canterbury's landing craft.

"Our job as the advance forces will be to survey the entrances into the reef and the anchorages so that HMNZS Canterbury has somewhere safe to operate from when she arrives here later this week," he said.

The HMNZS Canterbury was on hand when the Canterbury earthquakes occurred and was also part of the resources New Zealand sent to help Vanuatu.

Whole villages have been flattened on some of the islands in the Lau group, according to media reports.

Australia has sent the HMAS Canberra with 800 relief personnel and supplies on board.