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NZDF deployment to Iraq

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Defence Minister Mark Burton announced today that an engineering detachment of 61 New Zealand Defence Force personnel will be deployed in late September to work alongside the United Kingdom forces, and the forces of other countries led by the UK, which are currently engaged in humanitarian and reconstruction tasks in South-East Iraq.

"UN Security Council Resolution 1483 made it clear that the UN has a vital role to play in the post-war period. It also 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," Helen Clark said.

"The government has consistently said that New Zealand was prepared to provide humanitarian and reconstruction assistance at the end of the conflict, provided that there was appropriate multilateral cover.

"Resolution 1483 calls on those in a position to do so to provide assistance, and it is consistent with our obligations under the UN Charter that New Zealand should provide such assistance.

"Under Resolution 1483, we can make a useful contribution without in any way becoming an occupying power. The government is also pleased that New Zealand has the opportunity to operate once again alongside British forces while we engage in humanitarian and reconstruction work," Helen Clark said.

Mark Burton said that NZDF engineers would work 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 the rebuilding of bridges and water pipelines. Two NZDF staff officers will be stationed at the UK headquarters in Basra, and two staff officer will be sent to the UK Engineer Headquarters in Shaibah.

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

"Iraq is a challenging environment, but the NZDF is ideally suited to undertake this work, which is so vital to restoring normality for the Iraqi people. "Our personnel have an international reputation for excellence. New Zealand's calm, co-operative style has been enhanced by working alongside different forces in such diverse situations as Bosnia, Bougainville, Timor Leste, and most recently, our current deployment to the Solomon Islands.

"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."

The detachment will initially be deployed for six months, with an option of a second six-month rotation.

Contact: Mike Munro 021 428835, David Lewis 021 409492, Jocelyn Prasad 021 822734 (PM's office); Jenny Alexander 021 887 087 (Mark Burton's office)

Questions and Answers on the Iraq deployment

Is there a risk that the deployments to Iraq could make New Zealand an occupying power?

No. Resolution 1483 recognises the specific obligations and responsibilities under international law of the United States and the United Kingdom as the occupying powers in Iraq, acting under unified command (the Authority). The Resolution calls on the US and UK to promote the welfare of the Iraqi people through the effective administration of the territory, including working towards the restoration of conditions of security and stability.

Importantly, the Resolution also notes that other states which are not occupying powers may work with the Authority. And it welcomes the willingness of member states to contribute to humanitarian relief, reconstruction, rehabilitation, stability, and security in Iraq by contributing personnel, equipment, and other resources.

Our deployment of military engineers does not make us part of the occupying power. It is the sort of assistance contemplated and authorised by Resolution 1483.

The government is making it clear that New Zealand personnel are not to be deployed in any way which might risk us becoming an occupying power or which goes beyond the assistance envisaged in Resolution 1483. In addition, the government has decided that New Zealand's contribution to Iraq is restricted to humanitarian relief, and reconstruction and rehabilitation.

What are the command and control arrangements?

As with any offshore deployment, the New Zealand engineers will at all times be under the command of their senior officer, who in turn is under the command of the Chief of Defence Force (CDF). Any command which is outside the parameters of the deployment as authorised by the New Zealand government can be refused or referred to CDF.

What tasks will the engineering detachment undertake?

The engineer group will focus on work 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 the rebuilding of bridges and water pipelines.

What is the likely cost of this deployment?

Approximately $12 million.

Are forces from other countries working in South-east Iraq with UK forces?

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

What is the security situation?

The situation in Southern Iraq has the ability to change rapidly and will be monitored on an ongoing basis. Law and order issues pose a threat to the environment, as there is no effective local security or police capability currently in place.

As with any deployment, there is some risk. The situation will be closely monitored to ensure that conditions allow the NZDF to undertake the tasks for which they were deployed.

Will these engineers be armed?

Yes, for self-protection.

What is the physical environment?

Conditions in Iraq are challenging. After two decades of war and economic sanctions, Iraq's infrastructure is weak. The terrain of Southern Iraq is a relatively flat desert environment, with high winds, extreme temperatures, and dust storms occurring frequently.

 This page was last reviewed 29 September, 2011 and is current.

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