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'Top of the South' to Host NZ's Biggest Military Exercise

HMNZS Canterbury offloads troops and equipment on to the beach at Akaroa during Exercise Southern Katipo 2013.
HMNZS Canterbury offloads troops and equipment on to the beach at Akaroa during Exercise Southern Katipo 2013.

18 November 2014

This time next year more than 2,000 military personnel will be in the Buller, Tasman and Marlborough regions for Exercise Southern Katipo, the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) largest exercise.

The exercise will follow on from the 2013 iteration held in the Timaru area, which became the fictitious regions of Bekara and Alpira, suffering from political instability and unrest and requiring a UN mandate for international intervention to restore security and stability. 

This time Westport, Nelson Lakes and the Marlborough Sounds will become the troubled Bekara region.

Fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, ships, Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV) and other military vehicles and equipment will be involved, with international participants likely to include Australia, Canada, French Armed Forces of New Caledonia, Pacific Islands nations, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The international exercise is vital, to ensure that personnel are well trained and ready to respond at any given moment, and the importance of being prepared to help at home or overseas can’t be under-estimated, says lead exercise planner Colonel (COL) Martin Dransfield.

“An exercise like this covers the spectrum of what we might be called to do anywhere in the world, and especially in the South-West Pacific.  We need to be prepared to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief by land, sea or air, and assist with security and stability when our help is requested.”

COL Dransfield says a significant amount of planning is required to coordinate an exercise of this scale. 

“Everything from fuel to food to ammunition to ocean tides must be accounted for, and we are already working with local government and landowners, including airport and port authorities, local iwi and the Department of Conservation, to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.”

Although planning is only in the early stages, it is anticipated that the public will have the opportunity to get up close and personal to some activities, and information about that will be made available closer to the start of the exercise in October 2015.


For further information contact the Defence Communications Group: 021 487 980

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