New Zealand Defence Minister Wayne Mapp met his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith in Wellington today to discuss a range of defence and security issues.
Ministers acknowledged the importance of our close and enduring defence relationship, based on a common history, a shared strategic outlook, and sticking together in troubled times. This was especially evident in the offers of assistance following the multiple disasters that have recently affected our countries: Tropical Cyclone Yasi, the Queensland Floods, the Pike River Coal Mine Disaster, and the Canterbury Earthquake.
“Today’s meeting provided both countries with the opportunity to discuss strategic defence and security priorities in the region, to highlight progress in combined operations and activities, and to give our respective defence organisations the strategic guidance they need for our essential and growing bilateral cooperation in 2011,” Minister Smith said.
Ministers discussed a range of joint initiatives to take forward over the coming year, with a focus on promoting security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Following completion of our respective White Papers, Ministers have commissioned a review to determine how to strengthen strategic cooperation and priority setting for ANZAC engagement. Ministers asked Secretaries in their respective Departments to produce a joint report by 31 July 2011 detailing preliminary proposals to improve bilateral engagement structures and strengthen strategic bilateral exchanges. The review would also detail proposals to ensure cost-efficient cooperation, including in relation to complementary military capabilities that will improve prioritisation, and the efficient implementation of ANZAC policies. This review will ensure the bilateral relationship is best able to deal with the defence and strategic challenges confronting both countries.
Ministers were pleased to note the Pacific-focused Ready Response Force (RRF), initiated in September 2009, will be finalised in March, with New Zealand Defence Force personnel to be placed at the Deployable Joint Forces Headquarters in Brisbane.
“We have agreed that, to maintain a robust capability to respond to regional contingencies, the Australian and New Zealand defence forces will jointly develop and exercise plans under the RRF for a common response to contingencies, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. This will build on our long history of close operational cooperation and give tangible expression to closer ANZAC ties in the modern age,” said Minister Mapp.
Ministers also announced the sharing of key capabilities, including HMNZS Canterbury, as part of the RRF banner, with a view to early opportunities to exercise planning functions and amphibious interoperability.
“HMNZS Canterbury’s amphibious-lift capability will be particularly important in our region over the next few years in light of the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) transition to a new amphibious capability. During the transition period, the RAN faces challenges in amphibious capability. The integration of HMNZS Canterbury in this way is a practical example of ANZAC cooperation which can benefit our region, particularly in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” said Minister Smith.
Ministers further highlighted the successful reinvigoration of the Australia-New Zealand Airlift Agreement – an initiative developed at the previous Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Sydney in 2009. By streamlining airlift procedures and improving trans-Tasman communication, our air forces have produced a more efficient and effective ANZAC airlift capability, which will complement the RRF.
Ministers discussed Australia and New Zealand’s support for Pacific island countries, including through the Pacific patrol boat programme, which promotes indigenous maritime security capacity. Dr Mapp announced that New Zealand will provide a maritime surveillance adviser to the Cook Islands in support of the patrol boat gifted to that country by Australia. Minister Smith also welcomed the decision by New Zealand to join the ADF’s enduring efforts to provide further support for Pacific island partners through the removal of unexploded ordnance in Operation RENDER SAFE.
In addition, the Australian and New Zealand defence organisations have decided to expand their cooperation in English language training for regional militaries, starting with Vietnam, to increase the numbers of personnel eligible for training courses in New Zealand and Australia.
Minister Mapp passed on the condolences of the people of New Zealand at the recent death of Corporal Atkinson of the ADF in Afghanistan. Ministers expressed the view that 2011 would be a critical year for the international coalition in Afghanistan, as the process of transition is likely to begin with the Government of Afghanistan assuming security responsibility for parts of the country.
New Zealand and Australia have a strong security relationship based on a long history of cooperation, going back to the ANZACs in the First World War. “This cooperation continues to this day with combined operations in the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. Through the initiatives agreed at today’s meeting, our countries will continue to expand our already very extensive defence ties and demonstrate our continued commitment to security in the region,” the Ministers said.