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Playing our part as a responsible world citizen

Fri, 12 Nov 2004

New Zealand Defence: Playing our part as a responsible world citizen

It's a pleasure to be with you here today to outline current New Zealand Defence policy settings and our international deployments.

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Hon Mark Burton: Inaugural Armistice Symposium 12 November 2004 Auckland Museum

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.

It's a pleasure to be with you here today, for this inaugural Armistice Symposium, to outline current New Zealand Defence policy settings and our international deployments.

Right now, we have more than 400 Service men and women in over a dozen countries around the world. This number was even higher until last month, when our Light Engineering Group completed their 12-month humanitarian and reconstruction mission in Iraq.

Thankfully, all of our personnel returned home safely.

Our level of commitment rates New Zealand highly in terms of per capita participation in international peacekeeping and support missions.

For a country of barely four million (roughly the size of Sydney) far away from many of the world's trouble spots, I think this is commendable.

Our operational tempo over the last five years has been the highest in a generation.

Around the world, our personnel continue to make a very real impact on the lives of the local people and communities they engage with-working in environments that can be physically very difficult, and often dangerous.

During our engineers' 12-month deployment in Iraq, they completed 40 projects, including the construction of a 6 km domestic water pipeline, bridge repair and maintenance, refurbishing schools, and the construction of a reverse osmosis water plant, which brought clean water to thousands of people for the first time in a generation.

Since July 2003, New Zealand has been working together with other Pacific nations to help restore security for one of our closest neighbours.

And, after three years of serious law and order breakdown, combined with rapidly declining economic conditions, Solomon Islands is potentially on the road to stability.

In July, I joined Australian Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill and other government representatives from participating nations in celebrating the first year of this mission.

Police have done an outstanding job in removing weapons from criminal elements and gangs.

The NZDF played a key role in supporting the Police, and in facilitating civil and humanitarian assistance-providing helicopter transport, engineers for refurbishment of facilities, and medical staff for community level medical support.

While extraordinary progress has been made, the job is not yet done.

Solomon Islands remains our largest aid partner, and our aim is to continue long-term projects that will support the development of a safe and prosperous Solomon Islands.

NZDF personnel will participate in the maintenance of an Australian led platoon in Solomon Islands on a rotational basis for a further two years. And our New Zealand police officers will continue to work long-term to help rebuild the Royal Solomon Islands' Police Force.

In Afghanistan, the approximately 100 personnel who make up our Provincial Reconstruction Team (or "PRT") are working effectively to assist the Afghan government to extend its influence beyond Kabul.

They are building local confidence through their contact with community leaders, gathering information about their reconstruction needs, and providing an opportunity to air any concerns.

Our PRT has been highly commended for its part in helping Afghanistan achieve its first democratic elections in more than 30 years.

In the weeks leading up to the elections, the PRT conducted an information campaign to encourage people to vote and have their say in Afghanistan's future. Locals were urged to contact the PRT if they knew of anyone who planned to disrupt the elections. On election day, our personnel provided shadow escorts for the movement of votes, and also provided security in the areas surrounding the polling and counting centres.

Our PRT also managed the rebuilding of Bamiyan's only university-a major step forward in the country's reconstruction and recovery.

As the only university in the Central Highlands region, its reopening will have a long-term impact on the stability and future growth of the region.

Of particular importance is Bamiyan University's strong emphasis on education for women, and their goal of 50 per cent female enrollment. PRT personnel worked closely with New Zealand AID on this project.

It fits well with NZAID's commitment to improving access to education, and to ensuring that women-the group who perhaps suffered the most human rights abuses under Afghanistan's former regime-have equal access to education.

These projects are an excellent illustration of how our military personnel work with other agencies to meet New Zealand's wider objectives. They also clearly point to the need for our forces to be well trained and equipped, both for peacekeeping and combat skills.

When this government took office in 1999, we made our Defence goals and priorities very clear.

In June 2000, we released the Defence Policy Framework, which clearly defines the key elements of our approach to defence. One of these is that Defence is just one aspect-certainly a very significant aspect-of New Zealand's foreign and security policy.

I'd like to quote from the Framework: "Defence policy and foreign policy are a partnership, aimed at securing New Zealand's physical, economic, social, and cultural well being, and meeting our regional and global responsibilities."

We continue to work to promote this comprehensive approach to security, of which Defence remains a critical part.

In May 2001, we released the Government Defence Statement, which outlined an appropriate force structure to match New Zealand's defence objectives, which include:

· A secure New Zealand, including our people, land, territorial waters, and exclusive economic zone · A strong strategic relationship with Australia · A stable political environment in the South Pacific, with international compliance to agreed human rights standards · An expanding role in South East and North East Asia, including dialogue about and a role in regional security, and · A global approach to an international community committed to human rights.

Here, we obviously had some very hard decisions to make. How best to structure our forces to meet these needs?

In 1999, we inherited a Defence Force suffering from nine years of neglect.

We had the Army, Navy, and Air Force actively competing against each other for extremely limited funding, equipment dating from the 1960s, pay rates that lagged well behind the market, and no resources or acquisitions planned for the future.

We had to step back and re-evaluate how best to meet our objectives.

We had to maximise our strengths, directing our resources to those areas in which we excel, and where we can make a real contribution to international deployments. We are a nation of four million people, and we cannot be all things to all people.

The key components of today's NZDF are:

· A joint approach to operations and structure across all three Services · A modernized Army · A practical and updated Navy fleet · A refocused and updated Air Force, and · Funding commitment to provide financial certainly in the long-term.

We are committed to building a modern, professional, well-equipped Defence Force that is sustainable, affordable, and appropriate to New Zealand's Defence and security requirements.

In June 2002, we released the Defence Long-Term Development Plan (LTDP), which outlined exactly the acquisitions necessary to achieve this goal, established their priority, and allocated $3 billion over ten years to make it happen.

In other words, we defined what we needed New Zealand's Defence Force to do, outlined the most efficient force structure to do it, and put a plan in place to provide them with the necessary equipment-across all three services.

And I want to tell you-we are making excellent progress.

Following the release of the Defence Long-Term Development Plan (LTDP) in 2002, I said that we were "moving quickly into a new era of development."

In retrospect, I think that may have been something of an understatement. Since the Plan's release in 2002, 22 major re-equipment projects have been advanced.

We have updated the Army's communication equipment, purchased two battalions of Light Armoured Vehicles (NZLAVs), and a new fleet of armoured and non-armoured Pinzgauer Light Operational Vehicles.

Along with new field communications and weapons systems, plus technology upgrades, we have already invested close to $1 billion in the Army alone.

In August, we signed a contract with Australian ship builder Tenix for seven new purpose-built Naval vessels.

Known as Project Protector, this project includes a new Multi Role vessel, two 85-metre Offshore patrol vessels, and four 55-metre Inshore patrol vessels to be operated by the navy-a $500 million investment in total, and one that should see a minimum of $110 million worth of work to be carried out in New Zealand.

These ships will allow the Navy to patrol our EEZ more effectively, working in partnership with other agencies, in their task of protecting our borders-one of the most important security roles in today's global environment-as well as undertaking tactical sealift and disaster relief and humanitarian support in the Pacific and fisheries protection.

Projector Protector again illustrates how Defence, when appropriately planned in concert with other agencies, fits into a larger framework.

When Defence was defining the Navy's new fleet requirements, it worked actively with such agencies as MFAT, the Ministry of Fisheries, Customs, Treasury, the Maritime Safety Authority, and the Police, to find out what they needed in the area of surface patrol in New Zealand's EEZ.

Prospective tenders were told exactly what we would need the ships to do - down to the two dog kennels for the Customs Service-and asked to come up with their own solutions in terms of ship numbers and design.

Clearly, New Zealand's security-especially in today's global environment-must actively involve more agencies than just Defence.

Of course this idea is not a revelation to any of us, but it does show that a $500 million Defence investment in Project Protector can enhance not only New Zealand's military security, but also the security of our borders, our fisheries, and our biosecurity.

It will also greatly enhance our ability to provide support and assistance to our Pacific neighbours in times of civil emergency and natural disaster. The Air Force, too, has seen progress on major projects, including:

· the purchase of two 757-200 jet aircraft to replace our ageing 727s · an upgrade of the runway at Ohakea Air Base · a 15-year life extending upgrade of our C-130 Hercules aircraft, and · the invitation of proposals for the replacement of Air Force utility and training helicopters.

Last month, I signed a contract with L-3/IS Communications Integrated Systems for a $352 million mission systems and communication and navigation equipment upgrade for our fleet of P-3 Orion aircraft.

These aircraft are critical for surveillance of New Zealand's EEZ and surrounding waters, search and rescue, and meeting our South Pacific obligations.

This upgrade will ensure interoperability with our security partners, allow New Zealand to participate in a range of operations, and provide support to, and significantly extend the effectiveness of, Defence Force's other maritime and land force elements.

In total, these projects to upgrade Air Force equipment represent more than $1 billion.

Of course, as I have observed before, there will always be those who will say that this government's defence spending is too low, and that we should keep up with nations many, many times our size.

And there are also those who think that, for a country like New Zealand, $3 billion of capital expenditure over 10 years on a Defence Force is an obscene amount of money better directed elsewhere.

But it seems to me that neither of these is a credible view. I believe we have developed a thorough, realistic, modern defence policy-one that reflects New Zealand's place in today's world.

We have put in place a workable plan to achieve our Defence goals and uphold our commitment as a responsible international citizen. New equipment also means a direct investment in the safety of our personnel, bringing their protection and mobility in line with 21st century technology.

I am confident that our approach to the equipment and utilisation of our defence force is meeting and is continuing to meet our security needs.

There will always be the need to modify and adjust in line with regional and global events, but I believe we have set up an appropriate process to build on our policy, identify priorities for capital expenditure, and to raise, train and sustain our most valuable asset, our people.

We will continue to strengthen the whole of government approach to the defence of New Zealand, working together across the broad range of agencies that are addressing issues of our nation's security, and on our international relationships, on a daily basis.

The work of the NZDF is a major contribution to that security, and will continue to be so in the years to come.

The men and women of the NZDF will continue to train, equip and prepare for deployment as they always have, even while hoping that the need to engage in conflict will not arise, and that the special skills and talents of our people can continue to be deployed in the cause of building international goodwill.

I as draw to a close, I want to paraphrase from President John F Kennedy's Inaugural Address in January 1961.

Notwithstanding the very different issues that confront the international community, both the challenges and the solutions are, I suggest, remarkably similar. Kennedy said:

"So let us begin anew - remembering that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

"Let us explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.

"Let us seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together, let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

"Let us unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah - to "undo the heavy burdens and to let the oppressed go free."

"And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let all of us join in creating a new endeavour, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

"All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

"Now the trumpet summons us again - not as a call to bear arms, not as a call to battle, - but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation" - a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself."

In today's global environment, the need for partnerships has never been stronger, partnerships between agencies and between countries.

Our future lies in respecting what we each offer, and in providing what we are trained and equipped to do.

Thank you again for the invitation to discuss the NZDF and their work in the international community of nations. I want to close by saying this.

I have in my five years as Minister of Defence come to know the men and women who are our Defence Force. They are skilled and highly able professionals, well versed in, and well respected for, their military capabilities.

The unveiling this week of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Wellington's War Memorial is representative of the sacrifices made by New Zealand service men and women in past overseas conflicts.

And today, in numerous settings around the world, they continue to demonstrate their genuine care and respect for the communities in which they are deployed. I am proud indeed of their work for, and on behalf of, our country.

ENDS


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