A group of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel, with two Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) NH90 helicopters, has arrived in Honiara to support the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), as the country prepares to host the Pacific Games.
Around 5000 athletes, officials and support staff are set to participate in the Games, with many thousands more visitors expected in Solomon Islands for the event.
Athletes, including an approximately 45-strong team from New Zealand, will participate in 24 sports during the Games, which will be held from 19 November to 2 December.
As part of preparations for hosting the major sporting event, the Solomon Islands Government requested security support. Members of the NZDF will join personnel from Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea in assisting the RSIPF to deliver a safe and secure Games.
New Zealand has a long-standing partnership with Solomon Islands, including on security matters. The NZDF currently deploys personnel as part of the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force (SIAF), alongside the Australian Defence Force and Republic of Fiji Military Forces. Numbers have been boosted under the SIAF mandate to include around 90 NZDF personnel, to provide extra resources during the busy Games period.
Task force deputy commander and senior national officer for the NZDF contingent, Colonel Duncan George, said NZDF personnel would be working alongside their Australian and Pacific partners to support the RSIPF with security for the Games.
“We’re delighted to be here supporting our partners in Solomon Islands as they host this fantastic event.”
The majority of the NZDF contingent are RNZAF personnel who will operate two NH90 helicopters in Solomon Islands. The aircraft will be used to transport RSIPF members as well as personnel from Pacific partners who are supporting the Games.
The NZDF deployment will be for approximately three weeks.
250 Team Vanuatu athletes for Pacific Games
Team Vanuatu has arrived for the Pacific Games in Honiara with hopes of uplifting the spirit of their nation following challenges faced with the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Lola.
Speaking to SIBC News upon arrival at the Henderson International Airport, Vanuatu Chef De Mission, Mike Masauvakalo expressed optimism stating that the team, comprising 250 athletes and officials, is well-prepared.
Masauvakalo said he is bringing a very young team competitive team.
“In spite of the challenges we’ve through, the team has prepared well.
“We come here with so much hope and expectations,” he said.
He added that they hope to deliver good results not just for the athletes participating but also for their people.
“There’s a lot of people suffering still from the impact of category five (5) Tropical Cyclone Lola which hit our country couple of weeks ago but with our performance, we are hoping to be able to restore smiles to their faces,” Masauvakalo said.
In the meantime, the Vanuatu Chef De Mission grateful for Solomon Islands’ hospitality in Honiara said they are looking forward to showcasing Vanuatu’s prowess in the 17th edition of the Pacific Games.
New Caledonia advance team arrives
Meanwhile, New Caledonia’s advance team arrived in Honiara Monday afternoon, accompanied by three of their tennis players.
The team’s arrival is to assess the game venues and finalise arrangements with the Games Organising Committee (GOC) and stakeholders before the full contingent arrives today via a chartered flight.
Team New Caledonia Chef De Mission (CDM), Michel Quintin, said that he is fortunate and happy to be back in the Solomon Islands.
“We expect our athletes to achieve success in this year’s event and continue our legacy from the past Pacific Games in Samoa, where we secured 182 medals and emerged victorious,” the New Caledonia team leader said during a brief welcome ceremony at the Henderson airport.
The New Caledonia contingent will be accommodated at the newly built Solomon Islands National University (SINU) Kukum Campus hostel.