Lives risked at military weapons range
People are ignoring warnings and risking their lives by venturing on to the Kaipara Air Weapons Range.
One such incident led to cancellation of a ''critical'' army training exercise.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force training area at South Kaipara Head is a live ammunition area but some people are using it for recreational purposes at their own risk, pilot officer Michael Craies said.
The site is used to train air and ground crews in bomb deliveries, helicopter gunnery and cargo drops, along with assault exercises, demolition and survival training, and explosive munitions disposal.
''A significant number of vehicles are regularly seen in the weapons range,'' Craies said.
''Many people may not realise that the range is still active and is potentially a dangerous place for the public. It is illegal for any unauthorised people to enter the area at any time.''
The range is used by various government agencies, including the army, navy and territorial units.
''During a recent live firing exercise carried out by the New Zealand army units, red safety flags were stolen and people encroached on the restricted area,'' Craies said.
''This placed them at risk and also caused the cancellation of critical training.
''This training is required for overseas active service and without it our troops are put at risk.''
The weapons range is identified by large yellow signs stating the land is a defence area and any unauthorised access is prohibited.
Flags are used to provide further information. A red flag is flown at the northern end of Muriwai Beach and other public access points when the range is in use.
''The New Zealand Defence Force takes all measures possible to ensure all equipment is recovered but there is still a possibility that there are unexploded munitions on the range. While not commonly found, these are still in an extremely dangerous state,'' Craies said.
''Co-operation from the public is vital. Be safe, stay away.''
Kaipara range warden Greg Smith helps control range access and safety, and lives on site. He is also concerned about unauthorised visitors risking their safety.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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