Traditional dancers greet the soldiers as they arrive on a mission to restore order Bare-footed warriors dressed in grass skirts and coconut fibre headdresses welcomed the arrival of an Australian-led intervention force yesterday at the start of an open-ended mission to restore law and order to the strife-torn Solomon Islands. Whooping, dancing and wielding wooden spears, the islanders greeted the Australian head of the force, special co-ordinator Nick Warner, as he arrived at the country's main airport beneath a heavy tropical downpour. A brass band played and a guard of honour was provided by a detachment of 30 Royal Solomons Islands Police, neatly dressed in blue shirts and maroon berets. About 500 Australian soldiers and police officers landed throughout the day at the airport, outside the capital, Honiara, flying in from their base in Townsville, Queensland. A further 300 military personnel arrived on board an Australian Navy command ship, HMAS Manoora, after a four-day passage from Townsville. The rest of the 2,200-strong force will arrive over the weekend. The operation has been code-named Helpem Fren, meaning Helping Friend in the local pidgin language, and will cost up to A$300 million (HK$1.5 billion) a year. The task of the intervention force, which includes soldiers and police from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific nations, is to restore order to a country which has been crippled by civil war, lawlessness, extortion and corruption. 'We are here because the Solomons Island government, parliament and people invited us here,' Mr Warner said. Later he was officially welcomed to the Solomons by Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza. Australia fears that without such help, the Solomon Islands could become a haven for drug traffickers, gun runners and terrorists. Hundreds of curious locals braved the heavy rain and oppressive humidity to watch the international force arrive, pressing up against the chain-mesh fence that surrounds Honiara's Henderson Field airport, built by the invading Japanese in the second world war. Eric Houma, 21, a student, said: 'We are harassed by militants and it is very dangerous everywhere. It is a very good thing they are here. We need a full clean-up.' While the troops are expected to stay in the Solomons for a matter of weeks or months, the police are likely to remain for at least a year. They are expected to fan out around the country after establishing security in Honiara, a dilapidated coastal town distinguished by coconut palms, rutted roads and shabby buildings. A survey released today by a local non-governmental organisation, the Solomon Islands Development Group, showed islanders overwhelmingly support the military task force. The poll, conducted this month, showed that of 4,000 islanders interviewed, 82 per cent thought the Australian initiative was 'very good', while the remainder, 18 per cent, thought it was 'good'. None opposed the intervention. Three years of civil war have left parts of the archipelago in the control of rival militia gangs.