Grand finale for military exercise

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Waimate and the Waitaki Valley have been involved in a large NZ Defence force operation over the weekend.

Operation Southern Katipo 2013 was a joint military exercise which had forces from countries all over the world working together.

It culminated this weekend, with about 90 people being evacuated from Bluff and being taken by ship to Port Chalmers.

There were also shoot-outs at the Limestone Caves and in the Waitaki Valley over the weekend where “enemy militia” had been camping out and storing weapons.

NZ Defence force exercise chief of staff Commander Peter Kempster said the operation went really well over the weekend.

It had a rocky start, as it took a little while for everyone to get the procedures right, but finished solidly, he said.

It was a huge success, with many lessons being learnt and was a good challenge working internationally and having headquarters of joint forces from the Army, Air Force and Navy, Commander Kempster said.

Soldiers were standing next to sailors and working together, he said.

Having an operation like this meant they now knew how big they needed the headquarters to be, what skills they needed and what systems they had to have, he said.

“We have got now a blueprint for how we are to conduct operations for the future.”

The volunteers involved in the evacuation had a fantastic time, he said.

“People were really buzzing.”

They were working with nine other countries in this operation: Australia, Canada, France, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Singapore, Tonga, USA and the UK.

It was extremely difficult working with so many other countries as it was a “logistical nightmare” getting all the weapons and equipment into New Zealand, Commander Kempster said.

There will be a closing ceremony on Wednesday at Burnham Military Camp.

The operation will be held again in 2015.

 

By RUBY HARFIELD