Mapp Report 13 June 2008
Mapp Report 13 June
Planning Required For Defence Procurements
Military hardware - aircraft, ships and armoured vehicles - are amongst the largest capital acquisitions made by government. The New Zealand Defence Force has been replacing virtually all major equipment over the last 12 years, as Vietnam War era gear has been replaced, or radically rebuilt.
New equipment deliveries
The Navy took delivery of the two ANZAC frigates in 1997 and 1999. The Army has had new armoured vehicles (the LAVIII) from 2003 to 2005. More recently the Air Force has contracts for new helicopters, for delivery in the next two years, the Orion aircraft are getting sophisticated new sensors, the Hercules are being rebuilt. The Navy has a second round of new ships with the seven vessels of the Project Protector fleet. And there are many other contracts.
Right now there are nearly $3 billion of defence contracts underway. The priorities are set by the government, especially the overall specifications, the price cap and the timeframe for delivery. That is the Minister's job. The contracts are managed by around 30 people within the Ministry of Defence, supplemented by specialist officers from NZDF. Virtually all of these contracts are now being investigated by the Auditor General, who will report to the Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Select Committee by 30 June this year.
Project Protector contract
Let's look at one contract in particular - Project Protector. This contract is for seven ships with a total cost of $500 million. The principal ship in the contract is the multirole vessel (HMNZS Canterbury). The government had the choice of two different designs for this ship. They chose a one-off design, even though the other choice was a well proven naval ship in service with three navies, including the Royal Navy.
The Canterbury has been fraught with problems, some relating to fundamental design, others to the rushed nature of the contract. The ship is adapted from a roll on roll off ferry. These ships are known to have stability problems when lightly laden, which is the typical state for a military ship.
The ship's landing craft have to be craned off from a deck around 15 metres above the waterline. The landing craft are then driven around to a stern door to unload cargo. All this requires very calm seas. The alternative design had an internal dock, with the landing craft stored in the internal dock; an inherently superior system. In addition, the small inflatable boats (RIBs) are stored in slots a few metres above the waterline. The tendency of the vessel to roll means the RIBs can be washed out in heavy seas, which has already happened.
Government to blame
The Navy now has to make do with the Canterbury. But it is the government that should take the blame for the decision to buy a one off ship with inherent flaws. The other ships of the Project Protector fleet also have problems. The first of the Inshore Patrol vessels has failed a Lloyds' survey due to a series of faults, including inadequate fire suppression systems.
After all the problems experienced with the Canterbury, the Navy has sensibly made the decision not to accept any of the other six ships into service until all the problems are fixed.
Defence White Paper proposed
It is National's proposal, should we be elected, to have a White Paper on Defence. The procurement issues will have a special focus. We owe it to our servicepeople and to the country that Defence contracts be much better planned and managed than has occurred under the current government.
OUT AND ABOUT
The economy was to the fore this week, at the public meeting organised by Jonathan Coleman and myself. Our guest speaker was Dr David Skilling of the New Zealand Institute. David is widely regarded as the leading thinker on the challenges facing the New Zealand economy.
In essence, are we prepared to tolerate continuing decline relative to Australia, or will we make the changes necessary to drive the New Zealand economy ahead? David made the observation that the current 30% income gap between the two countries could increase to 60% if nothing changes. How would New Zealand fare in those circumstances?
David focussed on three fundamentals - global connectivity (ultrafast broadband), innovation, and savings, all designed to build an economy more focussed on high value exports. National has already taken up the first of these challenges - our $1.5 billion broadband plan aims to have 75% of New Zealand linked to fibre to the world. The first priority will be businesses and schools.
David Skilling is one of those people who are agents of change. Dealing with the economic challenges of the next decade will be the highest priority of a National government.
105th birthday celebrations
Last Saturday I was privileged to attend Mr Albert Halley's 105th birthday celebrations. He was surrounded by friends and family on this very special occasion. Mr Halley is one of New Zealand's oldest citizens, and he has remarkable acuity. He was born in London, is still agile and paints on a regular basis. Before coming to New Zealand, Mr Halley spent time in Australia and Papua New Guinea. He was one of the first people to explore the highlands of New Guinea in the 1920s, when it was discovered that two million people lived there. They had been so removed from the wider world they did not know of the existence of the ocean. It was amazing to meet one of the pioneers of the heroic age of exploration.
St John's School
Earlier this week I visited St John's School in Mairangi Bay as part of my regular visits to schools in the electorate. A nature park has recently been created within the school grounds. Hundreds of trees have been planted, and the park provides a pleasant and restful environment for students to take time out for solace and solitude. The school board and supporters should be very proud of their achievements.
After two busy weeks in the electorate, I am back in Parliament next week.
13 June 2008
CONSTITUENTS CLINIC - DEVONPORT
10.00am - 11.00am
Saturday 21 June
Devonport Library, Devonport
No appointment necessary
Dr Wayne Mapp