New Zealand Defence Force: Deployment to East Timor.

In September 1999 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel went into East Timor to restore peace and security as part of a multinational force (known as INTERFET) sanctioned by the United Nations. New Zealand personnel continue to serve in East Timor as part of a United Nations peace-keeping force (known as UNTAET).

This operation represents the largest deployment of New Zealand military personnel since the Korean conflict in the 1950s.

New Zealand’s participation in INTERFET was the result of months of planning and preparation. We examined the manner in which the NZDF went about planning for a possible military operation, and how it made preparations to assemble and train forces capable of achieving the mission alongside coalition partners.

Planning and deployment to East Timor – often under significant time pressure and in an environment of uncertainty – demanded collaboration and co-operation from all parts of the NZDF for what was to be a complex and large-scale military operation. The Navy, Army, and the Air Force were all directly involved in planning, mobilisation and deployment, and all three Services played important roles within INTERFET.

Mounting the East Timor operation put the NZDF’s military capability to the test. The successful deployment of the New Zealand force demonstrated the ability of the NZDF to work collectively in support of a common goal.

It was pleasing that we reached positive conclusions about the operation of NZDF systems, processes, and structures – especially in the light of our recent critical report on the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of new vehicles for the Army.

As could be expected, we also identified a number of areas for improvement. The NZDF has accepted our recommendations and has already initiated some changes.

Mindful of different audiences, we are publishing our findings in two different versions:

  • as this summary report; and
  • in more detail as issues papers

I hope that Parliament, the public, and other interested parties will all find the material of interest.

I thank the NZDF for its willing participation in our examination. A second examination of the roles performed by two particular elements of the New Zealand force in East Timor – helicopters and medical support – is under way, and we will publish the findings by the middle of 2002.

D J D Macdonald
Controller and Auditor-General

9 November 2001

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