Kiwi cops in the Solomon Islands as part of a peacekeeping operation are flying home - bringing a close to a 14-year programme that cost the Government $150 million.
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett has been in Honiara for three days for official farewell celebrations and today signed an agreement that will keep eight New Zealand Police advisers in the country.
Also announced was $12.5m over four years will be allocated from New Zealand's aid programme to support the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
Most of the 16 Kiwi officers currently in the Solomons as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (Ramsi) will fly back with Bennett's delegation today.
There is significant unease among some groups about whether security can be maintained once the foreign police leave. Corruption is widespread, thousands of illegal firearms have not been surrendered in official amnesties, and tensions over land remain.
Bennett met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare this morning and said she was confident he was working to rid institutes of corruption.
"The Prime Minister himself said it was his top priority - to continue the work going on there, that he too has heard calls from his people and actually it's not acceptable and they want it stamped out. I just have no doubt at all that he was taking that seriously."
Ramsi was Australian-led and started in 2003 when ethnic and civil conflict threatened to turn the country into a failed state.
About 13,000 filled a football stadium last night for a ceremony marking the end of the operation, with many coming to see the fireworks that were a pay-off after a number of long speeches.
Sogavare told the crowd that the official departure of foreign forces was the country's moment of truth.
The success of Ramsi had cost the taxpayers of New Zealand and Australia and was "written in blood, sweat and tears", Sogavare said.
The crowd came to life when Ramsi's special co-ordinators were presented with medals - the cheering showing genuine affection for the civil servants who had led the programme that has brought the Solomons back from the edge.
There was also loud cheering for a haka performed by NZ Defence Force staff who accompanied Bennett. As the group's face paint ran in the heat, there were sharp words among local cameramen as they jostled to get the best shot of the Kiwis, while crowds on the opposite bank held up the lights of their cellphones and watched the performance on temporary projector screens.
Bennett said she felt the "energy and hope" from the crowd at the celebrations, and after her trip she felt genuinely optimistic about the country's future.
Before flying back to Auckland, Bennett visited Honiara's multi-purpose hall and sports facility, which will be upgraded with up to $6m from NZ Aid. The conflicts have resulted in very high youth unemployment, and much of New Zealand's aid effort focuses on education.
Presenting gear to the captain of a local netball, Bennett asked if they were good. "Yes," was the succinct response.
The last stop was at Honiara's Florence Young Christian School, which is supported by New Zealand aid. The morning's heavy rain cleared and student dancers splashed in the wet grass as they escorted Bennett's car into the school grounds.
The NZ Defence Force cultural group coaxed shy students into performing with them, before a long line of students presented the Deputy Prime Minister with different dishes from around the Solomons some 900-islands.
New Zealand and the Solomons
• Police Minister and Deputy PM Paula Bennett is in Honiara to mark the end of the Ramsi peacekeeping mission, which started 14 years ago after civil conflict pushed the country towards collapse.
• NZ has contributed about $150m to the operation, with more than 1000 Defence Force personnel and 800 police serving in the Solomons over the past 14 years. Most of the 16 police currently there will leave today.