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A NZ Security Review - Opportunities Lost

A New Zealand Security Review - Opportunities Lost

A Report By Peter King
The Review Is Posted in full at:

Executive Summary


This study is a private investigation into the value for money offered by Vote Defence. It concludes that it should be possible to operate a defence force that is better equipped and more capable of responding to all likely emergencies than the one we have at present. The force would have higher wages, lower operating costs but have a headcount of just over two thirds of the current force.

The object of this study is not to propose a transition from the current to a future force. Too many decisions have already been taken which make this impossible. Instead the object is to show that operating under different imperatives and criteria what sort of different choices would be made. This does, however have heuristic value, in that it calls into question the decision-making processes to date.

The first contention this study makes is that the current assignment of Vote Defence is based around the wrong priorities. To date both political parties have demonstrated poor prioritisation surrounding defence expenditure.

The National Party has traditionally run-down the defence forces while simultaneously adopting a pro-Western alliance foreign policy. That is to say it has hypocritically attempted to sweet-talk our allies into over-looking our poor state of preparedness.

The Labour Party has taken an independent foreign policy line and invested in defence. It has however not questioned the decision-making of defence personnel. Politically it has tended to regard the Defence Forces as a agency to maximise: the political benefits of being associated with popular patriotism, and two: its credentials with the United Nations.

The actual issue of defending New Zealanders from the real threats they face have not been properly considered. For the fact is we are not at risk from the Japanese Imperial Navy. Instead New Zealand faces considerable risk from its geophysical status as a meeting of two continental plates. At any moment it could suffer damage which could wipe up to 25% off our GDP. Similarly New Zealand is also at enormous risk from biological hazards both to our animal and human populations. Finally New Zealand's EEZ (the 4th largest in the world) represents a huge potential and a huge risk. Without adequate surveillance we risk losing control of our assets. The Defence Force has not been properly configured to deal with any of these clear and present dangers.

The main criticisms of the current force are:

1. Its equipment acquisition profile seems to be generated in Canberra not Wellington. The result is a force which is not well integrated in terms of deployability or value. In particular very little has been invested in the core requirement of deploying forces over long distances quickly with the purchase of a multirole vessel low in Navy priority and still no sign of a replacement for the 30-year old C-130H Hercules.

2. Acquisitions have been gold-plated to the greater glory of the purchasing service rather than with a view to overall deployability and usefulness. For example:
The 2 Anzac frigates cost $391 million per year to operate (excluding their helicopters) but are not particularly useful for EEZ surveillance.
The 105 LAV-IIIs can only be moved by commercial ship and cannot conduct amphibious operations because they can't swim and we have no landing craft even though we are finally getting a multi-role ship.
The 338 Pinzgauers have an average cost of $298,000 each but 80% of the time only do what a Toyota Landcruiser could do for 20% of the cost.
The 12 NH90 helicopters can also only be deployed by ship but only a few will fit on the multirole ship. While they have lovely glass cockpits they have limited lift capability for cargo and limited range.

3. The current force is riven by inter-service rivalry which ensures equal annual expenditure between the three services even when this is clearly not justified. The cost of running the airforce

4. The match between staffing levels and actual mission need is not transparent. While our military is roughly the same size as Ireland's ( a nation similar to us in many respects) this does not in itself mean that it is the right level for the missions we set ourselves. Ireland's EEZ is 8% the size of ours and yet it has six Offshore Patrol Vessels to our Two.

5. There is no recognition of the lead role the defence force plays in civil and biohazard emergencies in its organisation or equipping. Given these risks are more probable and almost as dangerous this is a serious deficiency at a political level.

In short this review contends that far better decisions than those made to date could have been with taxpayer funds.

In the end, of course, the reasons such decisions have not been made is politics. Obviously this review has not had to contend with this debilitating reality. However in the end the point this review is making is to demonstrate the high cost the taxpayers of New Zealand are paying for this failing.


This review proposes completely restructuring the Defence Force into six inter-operable arms and reducing the headcount to 7,339. These are:

A National Defence HQ, which combines the functions of the Defence Ministry, Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and NZDF HQ. Staff: 1035

A National Hazard Assessment Bureau which acts as a secretariat with subordinate inter-agency organisations:
- International Threat Assessment Office (anNZDF, MFAT,MAF committee)
- Prudential Risk Assessment Bureau (a Treasury, RBNZ,EQC,ACC Superfund committee)
- Security Intelligence Service ( as current)
- Network Security Office (part of the current GCSB)
- Meteorological Threat Assessment Bureau (A Met Office/NIWA committee)
- Geophysical Risk Profile Office (an IGNS committee)
and most important a new Biohazard Intelligence Network (BIN) which draws together information from police, doctors, hospitals, vets, DoC rangers, which may provide early warning of new hazards.
Staff: 240 (plus an extra 60 in BIN development)

Pacific Command. An organisation which operates air and shipping resources that operate from and return to bases in New Zealand. This combines the Navy and the Airforce. Pacific Command operates
four Pacific Operations Vessels, ten inshore fisheries patrol launches, four Russian heavy transport aircraft, two long range reconaissance jets, three fisheries surveillance aircraft, four fisheries intervention helicopters and one long range VIP/Medevac jet. Staff: 1562

Operations Command. An organisation which operates land and air resources from anywhere on earth. This combines the Army and the Airforce plus the Navy Divers. This includes a special forces battalion, a mechanised auxiliary battalion, a helicopter battalion, a transport battalion operating armour and trucks, a field operations support battalion and a part-time infantry battalion. Staff: 2,880

Training Command. A separate organisation that both trains and tests. The organisation would also have a role in training secondary students in survival techniques, businesses in business continuity planning and volunteers of the Emergency Brigade.Staff: 1650 (including trainees)

The Emergency Brigade is a loosely organised band of volunteer rescue teams managed by local Police. It numbers 4000 and is funded by EQC. It trains in providing search and rescue and biohazard response. The idea is that it is less active than volunteer firefighters or ambulance but provides a reserve in a major civil emergency. Staff: 40


This is roughly 4,500 fewer staff than the current force employs. However the force would pay its employees for their knowledge and experience and less for their rank. That is it would pay to retain its middle ranks. Infantry would be divided into relatively large numbers of special forces (480) and part-timers. These part-timers would get free tertiary education in exchange for 13 years military service including four years of intense training.

More emphasis would be put on training more young people in three levels of intensity:

- All secondary school students in survival skills (including urban survival)
- Some 4,000 younger people and volunteers for Search and Rescue and Civil Emergencies
- About 300 in basic training over one year
- About 180 in intensive infantry training over three years

In general terms the proposal envisages a force that is better integrated not only with itself but also with the rest of the economy and society.

The Review Is Posted in full at:


About the Author

The author, Peter King, is a Wellington based researcher and investigative journalist who specialises in matters of complex public policy. He started his career with National Business Review as a technology reporter/editor, where he became the first specialist telecommunications reporter in the country. After travelling overseas he was recruited back by the Dominion newspaper in Wellington. In 1992 he left the Dominion to become the managing editor of the magazine of the Institution of Professional Engineers, a position he occupied for eight years. He currently writes on policy issues for New Zealand's largest membership organisation.

Peter has previously researched in-depth articles on:
- Telecommunications policy
- Secondary Science Education
- The Waihopai GCSB communications satellite intercept station
- The Electricity market in dry years
- Climate change policy
- Transport policy
- Genetic engineering
- Tsunami Preparedness

He has no personal military experience but, as with his other research, drawn on that of experienced informants. That said all opinions expressed are those of the author and no other person.

© Scoop Media

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