Australia & Solomon Islands deepen explosive ordnance disposal cooperation
Australia and Solomon Islands are proud to deepen their cooperation on explosive ordnance disposal, with an AUD 15 million package of infrastructure works, equipment and training announced today.
High Commissioner Dr Lachlan Strahan said Australia welcomes the opportunity to continue working with Solomon Islands to address the terrible legacy of World War II-era explosive remnants of war across its archipelago.
This legacy has seen several fatalities and injuries in Honiara in recent years. Tragically, in May, an unexploded ordnance killed Raziv Hilly and Charles Noda. Both young men were youth team leaders at the Seventh Day Adventist church and were active in their church community.
“They were good men whose lives were cut short by a problem not of this country’s making. It was a dreadful reminder of the ongoing human impact of explosive remnants of war on Solomon Islands and its people,” Dr Strahan said.
“The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Section is a small but highly skilled and well-trained team of technicians, experts in their field of WW2 munitions. They are leaders in explosive ordnance disposal in the Pacific and the Australian Defence Force is proud to be working with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to continue boosting its capability and expertise.”
“Australia and Solomon Islands have a shared history of working together to safely remove and dispose of ordnance from World War II, including through Operation RENDER SAFE and under our Defence Cooperation Program.”
Launching the package support, Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare highlighted, Solomon Islands continues to appreciate its mutual and cordial relationship with Australia.
Prime Minister Sogavare said, the Government of Australia’s support remains unwavering, and this new EOD offer further reflects the deep and enduring partnership between our two countries – it’s a partnership that is growing and reflects a sincere friendship between our two countries and people.
“I am happy that a close friend, Australia has taken up this responsibility to support my government’s deadly task in cleaning up an unfortunate remnant of world history.”
The Prime Minister adds, a review of the UXO Action Plan must include increasing awareness program to the population on the dangers of UXO. This is not to scare our people, but to continue to educate them on the need to report suspicious or unknown objects that may potentially be life threatening UXOs.
There are three elements to the package – infrastructure works, equipment and training. Infrastructure works, including redevelopment of the demolitions range at the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Hells Point facility, will enhance capacity to safely and securely store and dispose of World War II-era ordnance.
A new excavator will boost police capacity to remove explosive remnants of war in Honiara and across Solomon Islands. The excavator can also be used to respond to natural disasters.
Australian Defence Force experts will work closely with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to design a tailored training package, focused on advanced skills and instructor training for experienced officers, as well as training for new officers. This package will complement the training and course design work ADF Explosive Ordnance Disposal Adviser Warrant Officer Ian Percy has been conducting at Hells Point since 2019.
Training and construction of the main works will commence in 2022.