The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) led Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) Mine Counter Measures and Diving Exercise 2014 (MCMEX 14) kicked off earlier this week with a memorable opening day.
About 650 military personnel from 14 nations gathered at Devonport Naval Base, with Auckland providing a spectacular backdrop across the harbour.
The 104-strong RAN contingent, made up of HMA Ships Gascoyne and Huon, a Mine Countermeasures Clearance Diving Detachment and support staff, joined participating nations onboard HMNZS Canterbury for a warm welcome, before being whisked to the spiritual heart of the RNZN - Te Taua Moana Marae.
The participating nations were invited to join the New Zealand Navy family during a traditional Powhiri welcoming ceremony, showcasing the rich Maori culture.
The exercise will test participating nations' ability to come together and deliver aid to a fictitious Pacific Island nation affected by an earthquake and tsunami, and will be conducted in Auckland Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf from 17 February to 7 March.
MCMEX 14 scenarios have been drawn from recent humanitarian aid and disaster relief events such as the 2009 Samoan tsunami and the Christchurch earthquake in 2011.
RNZN Maritime Component Commander, Commodore (CDRE) John Campbell, said the exercise reflected the RNZN ethos of building new partnerships, sharing experiences, building trust, teamwork and experiencing other cultures.
“It's all about working together and cooperation,” CDRE Campbell said.
“These types of exercises are run every two years, so if we've got to do this for real, we know everyone is ready and we can go straight into the operation,” he said.
Task Group Chief of Staff for the exercise, Commander (CMDR) Max Muller RAN, said the RAN contingent was looking forward to supporting the RNZN in hosting the event and putting on a good show.
“It's a high profile event for New Zealand and Australia and it's the first time this exercise has been in this part of the world,” he said.
Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20140367.