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Defence Policy Statement Released

An army overhaul is one of the few revelations of a defence policy statement low on detail about other big-ticket spending decisions.

The defence blueprint – the Defence Policy Framework - which Prime Minister Helen Clark and Defence Minister Mark Burton released today, does promise a major overhaul of the army.

But the statement has little information about many of the major decisions due to be made in defence - especially when it comes to purchasing expensive military hardware for the navy and airforce.

Some of the big items not mentioned in the statement include decisions on whether to purchase another frigate for the navy. The the future of the ill-fated navy frigate the Charles Upham – currently delivering vegetables in the Mediterranean - has also not been decided.

Meanwhile a decision on whether New Zealand will have a future air strike capability has been put off seven years – the date which the existing Skyhawks have to be retired.

Miss Clark said the government was still looking at a range of different tenders for possible defence purchases. Whatever decisions were made would reflect the Government’s decision to prioritise spending on the army, which had been ignored by previous administrations she said.

Issues of surrounding the future of the air combat force or the shape of the navy had not been looked at as neither was pressing at the moment Miss Clark said.

Asked what the likely total cost the defence upgrade Miss Clark said the government was likely to spend "in the hundreds of millions" over the next few years.

An upgrade of the army's mobility and communications requirements, as well as providing an enhanced sea and air lift capacity, were decisions likely to be on the agenda soon.

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