6 Jul 2004

NZ to cut number of troops in Solomon Islands

10:44 am on 6 July 2004

New Zealand is to cut the number of its troops in Solomon Islands, and deployments will be rotated with four other countries.

There are up to 120 New Zealand defence staff who are due to return home soon.

The New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, says platoons of 33 defence staff will be sent to the Solomons for up to three months at a time, and will rotate with those from Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea until July 2006.

"The main task of the platoon will be patrols on Malaita, which has been one of the more troubled areas, the provision of a rapid response capability, and perimeter security for the prison."

Helen Clark says a New Zealand officer will be stationed at the Solomons regional assistance mission for the entire period.

Our correspondent in Honiara, Mary-Louise O'Callaghan, says although law and order have been re-established, core issues like corruption still need to be addressed.

Fundamental issues that caused the decline in Solomons, particularly the level of corruption that so eroded economic activity and the nation's wealth, and therefore the opportunities for Solomon Islanders to improve their lives, still hasn't been tackled in any fundamental way.