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Visiting Forces Act comes into effect

1 July 2004 Media Statement

Visiting Forces Act comes into effect

Law relating to forces visiting New Zealand for training and exercise purposes has been updated for the first time since World War II. Parliament passed the Visiting Forces Act yesterday, bringing New Zealand into line with contemporary international law and practice.

Defence Minister Mark Burton says that the new Act rectifies deficiencies in what is widely acknowledged as a complex area of international relations.

“Previous Visiting Forces legislation was over six decades old, and was out of step with modern practice. The Visiting Forces Act updates and amends the law relating to armed forces visiting New Zealand to reflect current international arrangements.

“Providing a clearer and more comprehensive law for accepting visiting armed forces into New Zealand enhances our international defence and security relationships.

“By reducing the prospect of misunderstandings surrounding the status, rights and obligations of forces visiting New Zealand, this Act minimises the possibility of future difficulties in our relationships with states who send forces here.

“It will also permit New Zealand to ratify its Status of Forces Agreement with Australia—the next step in our closer defence relations.”

The new law comes into effect today, and Mark Burton says it will allow for much greater reciprocity in defence relations.

“New Zealand expects its deployed forces to be afforded the privileges and immunities from local jurisdiction that visiting forces customarily have under international law. Under this new law, which allows for similar privileges and immunities for forces visiting New Zealand, negotiating such agreements will be far simpler.

Mark Burton stressed that the new law was the product of broad consultation.

“I would like to thank the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, the Parliamentary Counsel Office, and the New Zealand Defence Force for the excellent work they have done on the development of this Act. These officials have done an excellent job bringing outdated legislation in line with modern international law.”

ENDS

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