Story: Armed forces

Page 5. Non-military tasks

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As well as their clearly military operational roles, the armed forces undertake other tasks as required by the government.

International politics: Fiji, 1987

Following the first Fijian coup in 1987 and the hijacking of an Air New Zealand aircraft at Nadi airport, Prime Minister David Lange directed the armed forces to prepare to send a team of Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers to Fiji. The requirements were later upgraded to military personnel sufficient to protect New Zealand’s interests.

Because of the coup, the defence leadership considered the use of the military in these circumstances to be problematic, and delayed acting on the prime minister’s instructions on the grounds that the Defence Council rather than the prime minister should give such directions. The hijacking was overcome before the troops could be deployed, but the incident left a pall of mutual suspicion between the prime minister and the defence leadership.

Community aid: Canterbury earthquakes

Following the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, the New Zealand Defence Force assisted in the response and recovery effort. Surveillance aircraft, helicopters, warships, troops and base support facilities were all employed.

Cooking in bulk

One crucial but less obvious contribution by the armed forces in the wake of the 2011 Canterbury earthquake was the provision of food. In one 24-hour period, an army catering crew produced 1,646 breakfasts, 1,893 lunches, 2,009 dinners and 600 midnight meals.

Responding to natural disasters is not a role for which the armed forces train, but it is one that they are capable of undertaking because of their equipment and skills. The armed forces routinely also support international disaster operations, through, for example, the use of transport aircraft to move stores and people to a disaster area, the provision of images of the affected area, and search-and-rescue activity.

Supporting scientific activity: Antarctica

New Zealand’s Antarctic research programme has been supported by the armed forces since 1956 through the provision of search-and-rescue support, naval and air transport, terminal operations in New Zealand and Antarctica, ship offload operations and support to the programme’s Scott Base. At any time during the summer and winter seasons, between 20 and 60 personnel might be involved in Antarctic activities.

How to cite this page:

Jim Rolfe, 'Armed forces - Non-military tasks', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/armed-forces/page-5 (accessed 19 October 2017)

Story by Jim Rolfe, published 20 Jun 2012