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PM: Change of Command Parade Address

Friday 28 April 2006

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address on the occasion of the
Chief of Defence Force Change of Command Parade

Trentham Military Camp
Wellington

Today’s ceremony marks the formal change of command in the New Zealand Defence Force from Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson to Major General Mateparae. Both men have distinguished military careers and have rendered outstanding service to New Zealand.

Air Marshal Ferguson retires from the New Zealand Defence Force today after 37 years service, culminating in his four year term as Chief of Defence.

When Air Marshal Ferguson was appointed four years ago, his mandate from government was to build unity of purpose across the services.

Under his leadership, a vision of “Three Services, One Force” was established, leading to a much more cohesive organisation.

This, and careful long term development planning, gave the government the confidence to invest heavily in new and upgraded capabilities for the services, as well as addressing long term sustainability issues to ensure the maintenance of a high quality Defence Force.

While implementing organisational change, and overseeing both a major capital programme and the introduction of new equipment and capabilities, Air Marshal Ferguson has also been responsible for maintaining a high operational tempo for the Defence Force.

Air Marshal Ferguson has himself invested significant time and effort in ensuring that New Zealand’s commitment of personnel in the Middle East has been successful. On his watch, New Zealand has also made significant commitments to the tsunami relief operation, stability in Solomon Islands, and a wide range of other international deployments.

As Prime Minister I have worked closely with Air Marshal Ferguson on many of these issues, and have travelled with him to see New Zealand Defence Force personnel on deployment and to commemorate major New Zealand military engagements in Korea, Cassino, and Gallipoli.

An experience I will always remember was accompanying Air Marshal Ferguson to Kabul, Bamian, and Basra, and being very impressed by the quiet confidence and capability our people there displayed.

Air Marshal Ferguson also played a major role in another project dear to my heart : the return of the Unknown Warrior to New Zealand. Air Marshal Ferguson’s wholehearted commitment and that of the Defence Force to the dignified proceedings all the way from France and through the streets of our capital ensured that that journey and the subsequent dedication of the Tomb touched the hearts of New Zealanders in a way few had anticipated.

It is also important to acknowledge the support which Rosemary Ferguson has given Air Marshal Ferguson through his career, and particularly during these past four years. I well recall both Air Marshal Ferguson and Rosemary being with me in the New Zealand delegation to the Vatican in May 2004 where we had an audience with Pope John Paul II, - another experience always to be remembered.

I have no doubt that Major General Mateparae will carry on the vision of Air Marshal Ferguson for a cohesive Defence Force with high operational standards. The last few years have shown that there often are unexpected challenges for the New Zealand Defence Force to meet. We are fortunate indeed to have leaders of the calibre of Air Marshal Ferguson and Major General Mateparae who ensure that our Force always rises to meet those challenges.

In the past Air Marshal Ferguson has been honoured through the award of The Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, the Air Force Cross, the New Zealand 1990 Medal, and an OBE.

Before Air Marshal Ferguson retires today, there is one last military award for him to receive : the General Service Medal, Afghanistan. This award recognises the service rendered by Air Marshal Ferguson there as he personally ensured that New Zealand deployments to Afghanistan were appropriately and safely employed, properly supported, and properly represented at high command level. His personal commitment to the work of the New Zealand Defence Force in Afghanistan has helped those deployments succeed and brought considerable credit to New Zealand.

Air Marshal Ferguson has set a high standard for all who aspire to leadership and command positions in the New Zealand Force, and I thank him on behalf of the government for his long and distinguished service.

ENDS

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