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Old grenade uncovered

It’s not every day the New Zealand Defence Force [NZDF] rolls into Masterton to assess an object resembling a hand grenade.

But that was the case last week when an item of “unexploded ordinance” was found by Juken New Zealand Limited [JNL] forestry workers on Ngaumu Rd.

Senior Sergeant Gareth Barnes said forestry management arrived at the Masterton Police Station’s front counter on Tuesday to let police know “someone had found a grenade”.

“They weren’t sure what type of grenade, or what era, or whether it was live or not.”

Barnes said police weren’t concerned with people entering the site given how isolated it was, and that the forestry team cleared the area and put in a good kilometre radius safety distance.

“It’s happened a few times over my career,” Barnes said.

“Someone finds an old grenade or a World War II mortar, and the defence squad do a great job of handling it.”

Once the area was isolated, photographs were sent through to police, who cordoned off the area and notified NZDF Explosive Ordinance Disposal [EOD].

A spokesperson for NZDF said once the item was investigated, it was believed to be inert.

“Until these items are deemed safe by a subject matter expert, caution should be applied,” the spokesperson said.

“If you discover an item that you believe may be dangerous, remain clear of the item and contact
NZ Police as soon as possible.”

JNL national manager of forests Sean McBride said it was the first time in his career that he had seen this type of event unfold.

“We got a notification from a planting crew that they’d found what appeared to be an explosive device,” said McBride.

“Not the sort of normal day occurrence that you expect.”

McBride said the incident was a testament to the forestry industry’s health and safety practices present in the industry.

“Isolating the area to make sure everyone’s safe and then calling in the experts to deal with it in an appropriate manner is exactly the way that we want our systems to work.”

McBride suggested it may have been lost during past training exercises in the area.

“Going back a number of years, there have been military exercises posted in that particular forest,” said McBride.

“So our assumption is that it was a residual device left behind from military exercises a number of years ago.”

The NZDF spokesperson could not confirm the grenade’s origin but said items like this come from a range of sources.

“Historical items, such as the one in Wairarapa, are likely souvenirs from previous conflicts that New Zealanders – or immigrants to New Zealand who fought in these conflicts – have brought with them. “

While many items of this nature are found to be inert, the spokesperson emphasised the importance of remaining clear of any suspicious objects and calling in experts.

“It is critically important to assume they are dangerous until proven otherwise by experts,” they said.

“While many items of this nature are found to be inert, they are often made to appear as original items for display purposes and may not have undergone the appropriate means of ensuring they are safe.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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