Tonga to host next Tropic Twilight exercise

  • Hon Nanaia Mahuta
  • Hon Peeni Henare

Aotearoa New Zealand will partner with Tonga to further support resilience and recovery from natural disasters, with a deployment of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel for engineering and rebuilding projects.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare have announced Exercise Tropic Twilight will take place in Tonga in 2023. The 2022 exercise has just been completed in Niue.

"Humanitarian assistance following the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcanic eruption and tsunami was delivered through MFAT funding and NZDF personnel in January. Exercise Tropic Twilight next year will do the same," said Nanaia Mahuta.

"It offers a strategic opportunity to partner with key Tongan agencies, including the National Emergency Management Office and His Majesty's Armed Forces, to prepare and plan for responding to natural disasters.

"The volcanic eruption and tsunami caused significant damage. Within 48 hours the NZDF provided support that was critical to initial response planning for the delivery of aid for the people of Tonga. This included a RNZAF P3-Orion to provide aerial footage of the damage, followed later by deliveries by five C-130 flights and three navy vessels.

"The exercise in 2023 will assist the ongoing recovery and rebuild and contribute to a stable, prosperous and resilient Pacific, reflecting Aotearoa New Zealand's Pacific Resilience approach," said Nanaia Mahuta.

Nanaia Mahuta made the announcement on board HMNZS Manawanui, a specialist dive and hydrographic vessel currently in Tonga to help chart the harbour approaches of Nuku'alofa following the eruption and tsunami.

"Exercise Tropic Twilight is a regular training exercise, focused on humanitarian and disaster relief resilience with Pacific partners," said Peeni Henare.

"The tasks for the next deployment will be determined with Tonga, with the aim of providing practical assistance in an area where it is needed most. This work is a demonstration of New Zealand's continued commitment to Tonga's recovery and long-term resilience.

"The New Zealand Defence Force is committed to upholding the whanaungatanga between our two nations, and show the strength of those ties that bind us with our Pacific whanau. Exercise Tropic Twilight is a fantastic example of the Government's Defence Priorities People and Pacific in action.

"On reflection to the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcanic eruption, our Defence Force demonstrated its impressive capabilities in providing humanitarian aid, infrastructure, and COVID-19 support to Tonga. As New Zealanders I think we can all take pride in their efforts," Peeni Henare said.

Exercise Tropic Twilight was last held in Tonga in 2016.

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