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Minister Comments On Project Reshape

The Minister of Defence Mark Burton said the personal letters and briefings given this morning to 1100 RNZAF personnel brings to an end an unavoidable period of uncertainty.

"These have, I know, been difficult and demanding times for RNZAF personnel," Mark Burton said.

"I am very conscious of the impact that disbanding the air combat force has had on individual members of the airforce and their families. Looking after staff and their needs has been a priority and considerable effort has been made in this regard. I want to acknowledge the leadership provided by Air Vice-Marshal Hamilton at this difficult time.

"The reduction of 350 positions is being achieved through a number of means, including a reduced training intake, scheduled end-of-service, early release, transfers, civilian redundancies and voluntary discharge. I note that forced discharges have been kept to just 20.

"The decision to disband the air combat force was not taken lightly," Mark Burton said. "The professionalism and skill of the pilots, ground staff and other supporting personnel of the air combat force is of the highest order.

"But the government has had to address long-standing issues of obsolescence and under-resourcing throughout the Defence Force. Tough choices just had to be made and we could not shirk from our responsibilities to front up to those decisions.

"This decision was part of a package of announcements made in May this year, which was the result of a carefully considered process. We are charting a sustainable and affordable path forward for the New Zealand Defence Force.

"Central to these plans is the modernisation and re-equipping of the remaining elements of the RNZAF. Plans are being developed to upgrade or replace the ageing Iroquois helicopters and the C130 Hercules and Boeing-727 airlift capability, equipment modernisation for our P-3 Orions, as well as updating and maintaining necessary army and navy capabilities.

"All of the affected RNZAF personnel will be able to access support measures and practical assistance. I want to thank all the men and women of the RNZAF for approaching the challenges ahead of them with the highest level of professionalism, commitment and determination," Mark Burton said.

Ends

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