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Australian, New Zealand ministers to discuss bush fires, emergency work

WELLINGTON, Feb. 27 — New Zealand Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain will travel to Australia Thursday to discuss the bush fires sweeping the state of Victoria and to support New Zealand firefighters there.

The team of 66 fire fighters New Zealand's second-largest deployment of firefighters ever is made up of Department of Conservation forestry personnel and rural fire fighters, who have been stationed in the Gippsland area for the past two weeks.

"The Australian fire fighters in Victoria are feeling the strain of two months of work in extreme heat and difficult conditions. Our team is relieving the pressure on the local fire crews and giving them an opportunity to rest and recharge," Tremain said in a statement Wednesday.

The New Zealand team's work included controlling fires, building containment lines and felling dangerous trees.

"We have a reciprocal arrangement in place with the Australians and are happy to help out when needed. This deployment is also a great opportunity to share training and knowledge with one another, " said Tremain, who would also meet with Federal Minister for Emergency Management Mark Dreyfus and Minister for Police and Emergency Services Peter Ryan.

New Zealand's largest deployment of firefighters to Australia was the 109 sent to fight bush fires in Victoria in 2009.

Last month a team of New Zealand firefighters was also sent to help fight bushfires in remote areas of Tasmania. (PNA/Xinhua)

HBC/EBP

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