It has resembled a war zone for the last 18 months, but now post-quake Christchurch's red zone will be treated like one as the Army moves in for an urban training exercise.
Crack soldiers are utilising the unique training environment this week to hone their skills fighting in built-up areas.
Depot Company, from 2/1 Battalion Royal NZ Infantry Regiment, based at Burnham Military Camp, will be carrying out training exercises in both the quake-damaged residential and CBD red zones in Christchurch, from tonight to Friday.
Modern warfare means troops are often not fighting other regular armed forces in a traditional battlefield situation, but in towns and cities.
"Along with the enemy there will potentially be civilian bystanders, as well as people from other agencies there because they are trying to help," says Officer Commanding of Depot Company, Major Aaron Wright.
"It is important that our soldiers undertake training in varied urban environments to prepare them for deployments both here and overseas.
"The Christchurch earthquake was a good example of our soldiers deploying at short notice into a complicated and potentially dangerous built-up environment."
In this week's exercise, soldiers will be tested on short, "low and medium intensity" operations from both foot and vehicle.
Activities will include close quarter combat, training in patrolling, and detaining persons of interest.
"While the soldiers are fortunate to have the opportunity to train within earthquake-affected areas, they are also very aware that this could have been their own neighbourhood in which they grew up, and for some of them it actually is," says Major Wright.
The NZ Army has written to local residents and business owners to warn them of the exercises.