17 Feb 2014

Navy exercise begins in Hauraki Gulf

9:48 pm on 17 February 2014

The largest navy exercise held in New Zealand in 50 years has begun in Auckland.

More than 600 staff from 14 navies are taking part in the international exercise in the Hauraki Gulf, which will test the response to a natural disaster in the Pacific.

The scenario is set in a fictitious Pacific island nation that has been devastated by a large earthquake and tsunami.

Canadian, Australian and Peruvian naval staff on the exercise.

Canadian, Australian and Peruvian naval staff on the exercise. Photo: RNZ

The New Zealand Navy's maritime component commander, John Campbell, says those participating will be clearing a shipping channel of shipwrecks, unexploded mines and other debris so humanitarian aid can make it through.

Commodore Campbell says the exercise will give staff a chance to practise their technical skills and forge relationships between countries in case a similar disaster happens in real life. He says the exercise is an important way to build cooperation.

Commander Max Muller, of the Royal Australian Navy, says building relationships in the Pacific is important as Australia and New Zealand's deployments in Afghanistan come to an end.

Five ships and 11 dive squads are taking part, including teams from China, Australia, and the United States. The exercise runs until 7 March.