Legacy of WW2 bombs in the Pacific for many years - officer
Ten New Zealanders involved in exercise to remove bombs from around Torokina in Bougainville.
In a five week long operation through October and November an Australian Defence Force led team removed 16 tonnes of Second World War bombs from Bougainville.
Operation Render Safe has been carried out in a number of Pacific nations in recent years and this year's work around Torokina on the main island of Bougainville was welcomed by the locals.
The Render Safe team included 10 New Zealand Defence Force explosives personnel who themselves removed tonnes of what they call explosives remnants.
Captain Richard Capel told Don Wiseman why there are still such high quantities of bombs in these areas.
RICHARD CAPEL: The island of Bougainville was used as an airfield so there was logistic storage of explosive ordnance during the Second World War, which was then used on bombers flying from Torokina out to other parts of the Pacific to take part in battles there. Also the Japanese counterattacked the airstrip several times so there was a lot of fighting around that particular part of the island. And due to that a lot of explosives remain.
DON WISEMAN: We've spoken with landowners in the region and they are delighted that they are able to now use land that they haven't been able to go near for two generations or three generations. But how do you know just where these bombs are buried?
RC: We rely heavily on the landowners themselves. Prior to the team going into Torokina the Australian Defence Force put a reconnaissance team in there and they spoke to the locals. And these are the hunting areas and the cropping lands and they were able to take the soldiers out to the sites where these things remain and show them which ones are the most pressing issues.
DW: I guess that accounts for some of them. Are you certain that you have got them all around this area?
RC: No, no we can't guarantee that everything's been cleared away. To do that you'd need to go through the area with metal detectors and equipment to get down several metres. So we didn't have the time, the equipment or the personnel to give that sort of guarantee. What we were able to do was speak to the locals and prioritise what was there. So starting with areas around schools and population centres and moving out from there into the agricultural areas just to make sure that the most important items were dealt with.
DW: New Zealand and Australian soldiers have been involved in removing this World War 2 debris or these remnants for a number of years now. There's clearly a lot more, scattered right across the Pacific, so there's enough work to keep you guys going for a long time I suppose?
RC: Yes very much so, in the last three years the New Zealand Defence force has participated in Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Bougainville. And in all of those places there will be a enduring legacy left from the Second World War for quite sometime yet.
DW: Do you know where the next Render Safe program might be?
RC: I don't, that would be in the planning stages early in the New Year I would say.
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