Southern Katipo exercise director Lieutenant Colonel Martin Dransfield and Nelson mayor Rachel Reese at Nelson City Council yesterday. Photo: Kate Russell.

Army coming to practice here

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A large-scale military exercise will see more than 2000 military personnel from 16 countries descend on the Top of the South at the end of the year.

The New Zealand Defence Force is planning the exercise, Southern Katipo, for the end of October around the Marlborough, Kaikoura, Tasman, Nelson and Buller Regions.

It is New Zealand’s largest military exercise and is held every two years in varying parts of the country.

There will be groups of personnel participating from Australia, Canada, United States of America, France and Britain.

Soldiers from Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Brunei, Malaysia and Timor Leste will also be taking an active part in the exercise.

In the scenario, which is a continuation from the 2015 exercise held in Buller, Tasman and Marlborough districts, a fictitious South West Pacific island is separated into two nations called Becara and Alpira.

Becara is still suffering from political instability and unrest. New Zealand has been requested to assemble and lead an Intervention Force comprising a coalition of Pacific Island Forum Member States.

Lieutenant Colonel Martin Dransfield was in Nelson yesterday talking to Nelson City Council about the exercise.

He says they chose the Top of the South as they wanted to focus in on one particular task which is called amphibious operations.

Martin says the exercise will test the ability of the NZDF to plan and conduct joint operations involving sea, land and air assets.

“Exercises such as this are crucial for the NZDF to ensure that its personnel are well trained and ready to respond to a crisis at home or overseas at any given moment.”

Mayor Rachel Reese says the exercise is a welcome opportunity for the region.

“This is a real life simulation, on the ground, in the community. For us this is a great opportunity to see a big operation in play across the top of the South Island,” she says.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to get up close and personal to some of the activities, with more information available later this year.