Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel have arrived in Bougainville to address a potentially deadly legacy posed by unexploded ordnance from past conflicts as part of Operation RENDER SAFE 2014.
HMAS Choules is in the vicinity of Torokina carrying approximately 500 personnel and is equipped with an MRH90 Helicopter and an LCM-8 Landing craft.
The Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 Commander, Captain (CAPT) Jay Bannister, says his team is looking forward to the task.
The operation has been months in the planning, involving both Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The people of Bougainville have been most welcoming and we have been working very closely with them to identify explosive remnants of war which pose a threat to local communities.
We are particularly grateful for the continuing support from the Bougainville Police Service on building community awareness, and we look forward to their assistance in helping maintain community safety during the operation.
The focus of Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 will be in Torokina where grounds, villages and community gardens remain contaminated by unexploded ordnance.
Torokina was the site of fighting between Japanese and Allied forces, and was an air base for the Allies during World War II.
CAPT Bannister added:
Bougainville has a proud history but past conflicts have left a mark. We will be working very hard in the coming weeks to make Bougainville a safer place for generations to come.
This will be hard work but everyone here is well prepared for the task ahead and appropriate safety measures will be used at all times to maximise the impact of the operation.
ADF personnel are participating at the invitation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government and with the approval of the PNG National Government.
Around 60 Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts from other nations including New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom will be assisting the ADF team.
Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 is the ADF’s enduring commitment to the removal of Explosive Remnants of War which continue to pose a potential danger to communities across the South West Pacific.
The Operation begins today and will run until 8 November.
Press release, Image: Australian Department of Defence