'This is what we do' - NZ Defence Force keen to help Australia amid deadly bushfires, Ron Mark says

Despite differences on the sporting field, New Zealand and Australia are always there when it really matters, which is why New Zealand Defence Force personnel are keen to get on the ground and help out amid the deadly bushfires, Minister of Defence Ron Mark says.

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Defence Minister Ron Mark talks about what could be the biggest deployment for fighting fires. Source: 1 NEWS

On Monday, he announced New Zealand was sending three Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopters and crew, and two NZ Army Combat Engineer Sections as well as a command element to support the Australian Defence Force efforts in tackling the Australian fires.

The New Zealand Defence Force support deployed from Ōhakea Airforce Base on flights between Monday and today.

Mr Mark said it could be the biggest deployment sent over. 

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The New Zealand Defence Force is sending reinforcements to help battle the fires. Source: 1 NEWS

"From the New Zealand Defence Force side, talking specifically fighting fires, I think this is the biggest we've ever done and I'm pleased that we have the capability, that we have C-130 serviceable, that we're able to lean in and assist our Australian friends in this manner.

"If we were facing a fire of this scale we would definitely be needing help from Australia - that's what we do, you know.

"We have our differences on the cricket field, and they seem to have one over us on the cricket pitch, but when it comes down to stuff that really matters Australia and New Zealand traditionally have always leaned in and supported each other. That's what we do, that's who we are.

About 100 personnel will be on the ground today, with others supporting them back in New Zealand, he said.

"This is a sizable deployment and it's been put together rapidly. I am very pleased with the response.

"I am very grateful to the families who have given up their holidays as personnel have been recalled. We've got around 100 people deploying, there's considerably more than that back home here supporting them."

When asked about what type of work the New Zealand contingent would be undertaking, Mr Mark said the NH90s could undertake any transportation tasks, including personnel and equipment, as and where required.

But he said there was a grey area for what type of work the engineers would do.

"They've come equipped for anything that might be put at them. They've got a few plant operators onboard so should there be a need to man and operate plant machinery they have a capability there. They're carrying chainsaws, they're carrying water purification plants.

"None of them underestimate the size and scale of the task they're heading into. All of them are indicating to me that it must be horrific out there for the families and so they're very mindful of what it is they're going into.

"It's potentially, or it would appear at this stage although nothing is firm, the engineers may well end up on Kangaroo Island, and they're just chomping at the bit so I'm just very, very grateful to them."

There will be about 100 on the ground today, but Mr Mark said as the situation unfolds and tasking becomes clearer "there may be a need to surge forward with some extra personnel".

He also said there may be rotation of personnel to give them rest.

"This is not going to be over soon, this is going to go on for quite some time.

"I think new Zealand needs to look closely at what's happening in Australia and we need to bare in mind what we've got happening on the East Coast right now, I think we need to start some forward thinking and forward planning for our own sakes as well."

Mr Mark said he wanted other risk assessment done. One has been done on climate change, and one is about to come out on bio-defence on the back of climate change. 

"I've already issued instructions before Christmas that the next risk assessment we will do will be fire."