NZ Air Force Flies First Fiji Patrol Since 2006

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Marks the formal resumption of defense ties

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, January 31, 2015) – A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion has patrolled Fiji's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for the first time since defence ties were suspended in 2006.

New Zealand cut ties with Fiji after a coup led by then-Commodore Frank Bainimarama in 2006.

Sanctions were lifted after Fiji's election in September last year.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has said it is time to stop punishing Fiji for events in the past.

Mr Brownlee says the flight marks the formal resumption of defence ties between the two countries and the Defence Force will rebuild engagement with its Fijian counterparts.

Saturday's flight is part of a series of activities in Fiji this weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of No 5 Squadron's withdrawal from Laucala Bay in Fiji.

Flying from Suva, the P-3K2 Orion flew west to coordinate with a Fijian Navy patrol vessel undertaking maritime surveillance.

Chief of the Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley, says the Air Force regularly patrols New Zealand's exclusive economic zone and that of its South Pacific neighbours.

"It is important we know what is happening in both our EEZ and those of our Pacific partners so we can fulfil our security role to government and to deter any unauthorised activity that may be taking place."

He says the P-3K2 aircraft has a range of state-of-the-art airborne surveillance equipment on board.

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