Defence Minister attends earthquake exercise

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman has met with participants taking part in a defence multinational and interagency planning exercise based on a major earthquake disaster in Wellington.

"Given the recent earthquakes in Wellington which have naturally unsettled people, it is very timely that this exercise is taking place," says Dr Coleman.

The Defence Force is co-hosting Exercise Tempest Express with the US Pacific Command from 30 July to 7 August 2013. Around 70 military personnel from 18 countries are taking part, including Indonesia, Tonga, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Japan, Germany, Canada, Australia, and the US.

Exercise Tempest Express also involves a range of government agencies, including the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, along with the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office.

"The 6.5 magnitude earthquake which struck in the Cook Strait on 21 July was a reminder of how unpredictable and unnerving earthquakes can be," Dr Coleman says.

"No one has forgotten the devastating Christchurch earthquake which killed 185 people in 2011. The Defence Force along with Emergency Services provided a timely response, and over 1700 Defence personnel provided a range of assistance during March 2011.

"Being able to provide an effective response to disasters like the Christchurch earthquake or the Samoan tsunami is a key priority for the Defence Force. The Defence White Paper sets out the Defence Force’s commitment to a whole-of-government humanitarian disaster relief effort.

"An effective interagency and multinational approach to disaster relief is essential. It is important we work together to hone our skills and enhance our ability to respond effectively to a major disaster at home or abroad.

"The Defence Force has a proven track record on disaster relief, working closely with our international partners and government agencies on a number of humanitarian disaster relief exercises. There are currently a number of Defence personnel and assets taking part in the US led Exercise Pacific Partnership in the South Pacific."