The construction of the new home for the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No. 5 Squadron and the P-8A Poseidon aircraft officially started today, with the Minister of Defence Hon Peeni Henare attending a sod-turning ceremony at the Ohakea Airbase.
The new facility will be called Te Whare Toroa, a name inspired by the albatross on No. 5 Squadron’s crest.
“The start of the construction of this facility is a major milestone for the project team, working to bring four new P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to New Zealand in 2023”, Peeni Henare said.
The aircraft will replace the P-3K2 Orions, which have been in use since the 1960s, and are approaching the end of their operational life.
Like the Orions, the P-8A Poseidon aircraft will deliver support to New Zealand’s maritime surveillance, resource protection, humanitarian and disaster responses, here in New Zealand, in our near neighbourhood and further abroad.
This capability saves lives. In the last decade, 200 lives were saved in the wider search and rescue region patrolled by the P-8’s predecessor, the Orions.
“The purchase of these aircraft and the construction of large facilities like Te Whare Toroa demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the security of New Zealand, its neighbours in the Pacific and the wider world,” Peeni Henare said.
The building works for the P-8A Poseidon aircraft will be one of the largest and most complex construction projects undertaken by the Ministry of Defence and New Zealand Defence Force. Hawkins Construction has been awarded the contract to build the facility.
The arrival of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft to Manawatu-Whanganui represents a significant boost for the region and local economy. The total cost of the construction at Ohakea is over $250 million, and at the peak of construction 400 workers will be on site.