Welcome home NZBATT5

  • Lianne Dalziel

Members of NZBATT5, Your Worship Mayor Garry Moore, Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson, Chief of General Staff Major General Jerry Mateparae, Commander Joint Force Headquarters Major General Martyn Dunne, Senior Officers, Unit COs and RSMs, families and friends.

There are many happy and proud people here today. And rightly so. As a Minister of the Crown, I too am immensely proud of the New Zealanders who have served their country with such distinction in East Timor.

All of you who have returned from East Timor, and who we are belatedly welcoming home officially today, can hold your heads high. And for the families of those who served in East Timor, you can rejoice in the safe return of your loved ones, and know that they have played a vital role in protecting the rights of a people who have suffered so much in their struggle towards building their nationhood – their future. I hope this parade will give you a positive sense of closure to your deployment.

I also want to express the Government's special appreciation for the personal sacrifices made by all the families of those who have served in East Timor.

Having your sons, husbands, wives and daughters, mums and dads away from home, in a dangerous, remote and unpredictable environment, is never an easy thing to cope with. Thank you, all of you. I would like to acknowledge at this time however, the tragic death of Private Paeder Flaherty, a member of the Irish Platoon attached to the Battalion Group.

NZBATT5 was formed from thirty-eight different units, sub units, and detachments. A sizable number of the Battalion Group are territorial soldiers who joined the regular force for this deployment. In-theatre, many of the available civilian skills were put to good use – plumbers, carpenters, road planners, water resource managers and so on.

The challenges that the 5th Battalion Group faced were considerable. Together, you successfully trained and created an effective infantry battalion. I know that many of you sacrificed a lot of precious time with your families in order to achieve the required standards.

I am told by your commanding officers that you showed a commitment and determination towards learning the new skills you needed to meet the challenges of East Timor. In particular, I am told that you all worked together to meet individual and collective goals.

I want to acknowledge that you then operated with distinction in a demanding environment. Through your professionalism and skill, you have further enhanced New Zealand's good reputation in East Timor, and amongst the UN partners engaged in East Timor.

While you continued the work done by previous New Zealand battalions to combat the destabilising influence of hostile militia operations, you also recognised that the security situation in the New Zealand Area of Operations continues to change requiring a flexible approach to the problems that you faced.

As a Battalion Group, you successfully maintained a secure environment in Cova Lima District in the run up to the Presidential elections in April and the transition to Independence on 20 May this year. You did this by the continuous patrolling of the southern half of the East Timorese border and maintaining a highly visible presence throughout the District.

You built on the efforts of the previous four Battalion Groups and worked at a number of levels to address potential sources of conflict. One of these was, facilitating the repair of the destroyed infrastructure by working with a number of organisations to bring in a substantial amount of aid into the District. This aid went towards rebuilding a number of schools, medical clinics and village water points. You also assisted in the opening of the Suai Courthouse and worked with the East Timorese Government to keep the Suai Hospital open.

The Battalion Group also worked closely with UN police to detain a number of gang members who had taken to low-level intimidation and extortion in an attempt to achieve aims that threatened the continued stability of the new state of East Timor.

I can assure you that collectively, you made an enormous difference to the East Timorese who lived in your area of operations.

I also want to acknowledge the service of those individuals here today who served in East Timor but were not part of the Battalion group – and indeed all those whose extra efforts back in New Zealand made this deployment possible.

In closing, let me say that the government and the people of New Zealand are immensely pleased, grateful and proud for the work you have all done on our behalf. Thank you and welcome home.