Pacific Partnership 2011: New Zealand Joins Humanitarian Mission in Tonga and Vanuatu

Posted by Thomas E. Weinz
May 16, 2011
New Zealand Multi-Purpose ship HMNZS CANTERBURY in Formation for PP 2011

On November 4, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her New Zealand counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, signed a brief agreement following meetings in Wellington, New Zealand. Known as the Wellington Declaration, the document calls for “…a new strategic partnership between the United States of America and New Zealand.” Disaster response management is singled out as a key joint initiative our two countries must address. This is a reaffirmation of the close historical ties between America and New Zealand, but it is singularly significant in providing focus and stressing cooperation in achieving our common goals in the South Pacific region.

New Zealand has participated in Pacific Partnership throughout its short history, usually by sending medical officers aboard an American ship. This year, New Zealand contributed its multi-purpose ship, the HMNZS Canterbury, to Pacific Partnership 2011 in Tonga and Vanuatu. This is a serious commitment of resources for a country with relatively few naval assets, and Canterbury proved a force multiplier to Pacific Partnership on several levels. Commodore Wilson transferred his command to Canterbury before departing Tonga; his entire staff was also welcomed aboard, where they remained for the entire Vanuatu mission. During our time in Vanuatu, personnel and sailors traded places on Canterbury and Cleveland, and carried out a number of interoperability exercises while taking part in a real-world humanitarian effort.

The Wellington Declaration also commits to "…deeper and broader people-to-people ties," which is a natural corollary to the philosophy which guides all Pacific Partnership interactions among partner and host nation peoples. One of the strongest memories ni-Vanuatu (as the people of Vanuatu are known) retain from observing American soldiers during World War II is that of people of different races, appearances and beliefs working together as a unit and treating locals with respect and dignity. Pacific Partnership 2011 has taken the lead in making the Wellington Declaration a meaningful and active statement, and we look forward to many future cooperative efforts with the men and women of New Zealand as we strive together to create the foundation of a more secure and tolerant world.

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