WELLINGTON, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- A New Zealand-led multi- national task group, including troops from China for the first time, has begun work on refurbishing essential public infrastructure in the Cook Islands, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) said Friday.
The troops were fixing potential electrical hazards in schools and hospitals in the northern Cook Islands as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight, Captain Andrew Blackburn, Senior National Officer for the New Zealand contingent, said in a statement.
The work would ensure public buildings could better withstand the devastating cyclones that regularly ripped through the Pacific Islands.
Around 40 New Zealand engineers, plumbers, carpenters and electricians were also working alongside 20 military engineers from China, the United Kingdom and the United States to build a new fuel depot to support long-range maritime patrols against illegal fishing in the northern Cook Islands.
"As a member of this international team led by the NZDF, I'd like to get our tasks perfectly done to help the locals," Major Sun Yang Yang, of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), said in the statement.
"Furthermore, we want to show our friendly, enthusiastic and open attitude in the HADR operations as a responsible country in the Asia-Pacific region," he said.
The New Zealand Aid Programme was funding the new fuel depot which would be used to refuel the Australian-funded Cook Islands Pacific Patrol Boat Te Kukupa.
"The depot is a critical piece of infrastructure to support Te Kukupa's policing operations in the northern atolls, where most illegal fishing occurs," Blackburn said.
Upgrading the fuel depot will enable the Cook Islands government to expand its fisheries surveillance, which was essential for its sustainable management, Nick Hurley, New Zealand 's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, said in the statement.
Tropic Twilight aims to practise the NZDF's capability to deploy alongside other militaries to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Southwest Pacific.
The exercise is being conducted from Aug. 31 to Oct. 12.
The FAPF (Forces armees en Polynesie francaise) are also supporting the humanitarian activity.
The NZDF told Xinhua last month that the PLA was joining the regular exercise for the first time and would deploy seven personnel.