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Handover of Light Armoured Vehicles to NZ Defence

Mark Burton Speech: Handover of Light Armoured Vehicles to the New Zealand Defence Force

His Excellency Mr John Donaghy, High Commissioner for Canada Mr John Ulrich, Senior Vice President, General Dynamics Land Systems Canada General Raymond Henault, Chief of Defence Staff, Canadian Forces Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson, Chief of Defence Force, New Zealand Staff from General Dynamics Land Systems Canada Senior Officers and staff from the Ministry of Defence and New Zealand Defence Force Invited Guests—Welcome

The handover of these light armoured vehicles today marks an important milestone for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). Equipping our forces with the NZLAV is a fundamental part of taking an Army equipped for the 1960’s into the 21st Century.

The NZLAVs offer the New Zealand Army the best mix of protection and mobility available in an armoured vehicle, enabling them to transport significant numbers of personnel in high-risk situations.

The New Zealand Army will be able to deploy and sustain up to a battalion group to participate in coalition operations or play a supporting role in mid-level conventional conflict.

In 2000, the government’s Defence Policy Framework clearly defined New Zealand’s internal, regional, and global defence objectives—objectives that demand that the NZDF be equipped and trained for both combat and peacekeeping, with easily deployable, well-equipped and highly trained troops.

The NZLAV is key to achieving this goal.

I am delighted this day has come. In my four years as Minister of Defence, I have been privileged to be actively involved in the systematic re-equipping of our Defence Forces–something which had been neglected for far too long.

We have purchased $120 million worth of new Tactical and Mobile Communications Systems (TMCS) equipment for our Army and Air Force, replacing their unreliable, Vietnam-era communications systems.

We have replaced both of the RNZAF’s ageing 727s with 757-200 jet aircraft, as well as commencing a major 15-year life extending upgrade of New Zealand’s five C-130Hs, a project to replace the Iroquois utility helicopter and the Sioux training helicopter, and the systems upgrade of our P-3 Orion fleet.

And the $500 million Project Protector will see the Navy replace the aging frigate Canterbury with a new multi-role vessel, off-shore and in-shore patrol vessels.

So it is with particular pleasure that I now accept the first of our 105 NZLAVs—world-class vehicles to match the quality of our world-class Army personnel.

The NZLAV is about more than updating the NZDF’s 1960’s era equipment. Our investment in modern equipment is having direct, positive effects on the men and women of the NZDF.

New, high-tech assets such as the NZLAV offer both current and prospective NZDF personnel better career opportunities. In turn, this greatly improves their professional incentives to remain and build their long-term careers in the NZDF.

And I, for one, have nothing but confidence in the men and women who are the New Zealand Army to take up the challenges that the introduction of this state-of-the-art vehicle represents.

And, as they so frequently do when confronting the diverse range of issues that arise during operational deployments, I know they will excel.

Anyone who suggests otherwise is, quite simply, wrong.

Many of you will be aware that getting to this day was no easy task. As John mentioned, all major defence acquisitions will have their detractors, and the NZLAV is no different.

But it is precisely because of the setbacks we have overcome along the way that I want to make special mention of those who brought this project in: on time and on budget—in spite of those who insisted it couldn’t be done.

I’d like to thank first of all the Ministry of Defence, and in particular Peter Ware (MoD Project Director), Ian Benfell (MoD Project Manager—based in Canada), and Major Calvin Hawley (MoD Project Engineer—based in Canada), as well as the many, many NZDF staff whose hard work and outstanding dedication has resulted in today’s handover.

In addition, I’d like to recognise the hard work of all those NZDF staff currently involved in putting this vehicle into service—no easy task, I’m sure, but one I know you will manage well.

Last, but not least, I would like to acknowledge the excellent work done by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada in bringing these vehicles to us. The level of cooperation and professionalism demonstrated has been outstanding, and I thank you again for your hard work.

And now, it is my great pleasure to hand over the microphone to Chief of Defence Force Air Marshall Bruce Ferguson.

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