10 Feb 2011

NZ, Australia to set up emergency force for Pacific

7:13 pm on 10 February 2011

The New Zealand and Australian governments say a joint force to respond to disasters in the Pacific will be in place from March.

New Zealand Defence Minister Wayne Mapp met with Australian counterpart Stephen Smith in Wellington on Thursday.

The Ready Response Force will consist of defence planners from each country and be based in Brisbane allowing it to quickly respond to emergencies in the region.

Two Defence Force staff will move to Brisbane in March, however, Dr Mapp said there is no plan to deploy troops there.

Mr Smith said the countries will increasingly share naval resources in a bid to operate more effectively and efficiently in the Pacific.

As part of the agreement, New Zealand Navy vessel HMNZS Canterbury will be made available for joint training and operations.

The Canterbury carries four helicopters capable of transporting equipment and supplies from the ship to land.

Dr Mapp and Mr Smith have directed their departments to look at other ways New Zealand and Australia can be more strategic about closer defence co-operation.