Coalition forces – New Zealand

Coalition forces – New Zealand


Due to long-standing New Zealand influence in Polynesia, the joint Australian and New Zealand military intervention in Tonga in November 2006 was led by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), in support of the Tonga Defence Service (TDS) and Tonga Police Force.

Government sources:

NZ and Australia respond to Tonga’s request for help, Prime Minister Helen Clark, Media Release, 18 November 2006

“Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today that New Zealand would send a contingent of defence personnel and police to Tonga in response to a request from Tonga’s government for security assistance in the wake of rioting on Thursday. Australia will also provide defence personnel and police to a New Zealand-led contingent which is expected to leave for and arrive in Tonga tomorrow [Saturday], subject to final agreement on arrangements between the three governments.

“Helen Clark said a group of about sixty New Zealand Defence Force personnel will assist with security at Fua’amotu International Airport. Eight to ten New Zealand Police will be deployed to provide additional security and assistance at the New Zealand High Commission in Nuku’alofa. …

“The New Zealand Police’s primary role will be to provide security and assistance to the New Zealand High Commissioner and his staff. They will also discuss further with the Tonga Police Force what might be needed in terms of ongoing assistance needs in the short and medium term.”

Kingdom of Tonga – NZ Police International Service Group

A 45 strong contingent of New Zealand Police Officers were deployed to provide an efficient and effective contribution to the recovery efforts and to help investigate crimes committed during the rioting and also to provide support to frontline Police in the Community. Since then a small contingent of NZ Police Officers have maintained in and around Nuku’alofa to help support Tonga Police.”

New Zealand Led Joint Task Force heads to Tonga, NZDF website

New Zealand contingent of military and police are due to arrive in Tonga at 3pm today. The contingent, which includes 62-strong NZDF personnel, a small contingent of NZ Police and other Government personnel, will arrive by RNZAF Boeing. Two C130 Hercules will transport additional cargo and up to four light operational vehicles.

A further 80 Australian Defence and Federal Police personnel will join the NZDF contingent in assisting the Government of Tonga as part of a New Zealand led Combined Joint Task Force.

“Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Rear Admiral Jack Steer said the contingent would be providing security to the Fau’amotu International Airport to enable the resumption of civilian air travel.

New Zealand has taken the lead role in a combined operation with Australia; however both countries have deployed jointly to a number of regions within the pacific and have worked very well together.

“ ‘This is an opportunity for NZDF to take a leadership role in this type of operation and I have complete faith that they will carry out their role professionally’ said Rear Admiral Steer.”

Frequently asked questions, NZDF website

The NZDF is leading a Combined New Zealand and Australian Joint Task force in providing security to Tongan International Airport and restoring stability to the region. The force has a security focus. The deployment to Tonga is the third New Zealand/ Australia Combined operation in the Asia-Pacific region this year. This currently includes missions to Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands…

Senior National Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Darren Beck is leading the Combined Joint Task Force of approximately 150 New Zealand and Australian military and police. “

Prime Minister’s farewell speech to departing New Zealand soldiers, Government of Tonga media release, 2 December 2006

“Colonel Beck and your troops, I have come here this afternoon on behalf of His Majesty, the Government and people of Tonga, to say thank you very much to you and your soldiers for having come out to Tonga to assist us in our hour of need. We are most grateful indeed. As you would have witnessed for yourselves, our defence forces were ready to restore law and order very quickly, and your arrival, at very short notice, to lend support to them was most reassuring to all of us….

“The joint training and exercises between our two defence forces over the years have been of valuable assistance to both countries, especially to us, and your assistance in many other initiatives are greatly appreciated, and i have no doubt that these joint co-operative efforts will continue and even expand.

“I was particularly pleased yesterday with the high compliments Major Hemmet [sic] paid to our defence forces yesterday when he praised their extremely high level of professionalism and dedication. We are extremely proud of them.”

Commentary and analysis

Cutting their cloth: New Zealand’s defence strategy, Jim Rolfe, ASPI Strategy Paper, April 2007, pp15, 36

“In Afghanistan, Solomon Islands, East Timor and most recently Tonga, operations have been controlled from the Joint Force Headquarters without regard to the service of the staff officers involved, and units and personnel from the different services have worked closely and efficiently together in the field. Tonga was not only a joint operation, albeit small, but also a combined one with Australia in which New Zealand took overall command of the operation. The deployment worked well once initial teething troubles between the two countries, mostly relating to the slightly different tasks given to the two forces by their respective governments were resolved…..

“New Zealand sees no dilemma in wanting to be treated more or less equally by Australia. New Zealand took the lead in the Bougainville peace process because Australia was unacceptable to the protagonists in the dispute, and led the 2006 combined deployment to Tonga because Tonga is within New Zealand’s unofficial ‘sphere of responsibility’. New Zealand’s ability to lead on these kinds of missions argues for an equal role with Australia in decision making on issues that affect both countries.”

See also: