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Mapp talking rubbish on Defence Force

4 September 2008

Mapp talking rubbish on Defence Force

National's press statement claiming the New Zealand Defence Force is 'critically ill-resourced' is an exercise in gross hypocrisy, Defence Minister Phil Goff says.

"In office, National slashed spending on defence by a third and cut down personnel numbers by a quarter," Phil Goff said.

"By contrast, Labour has invested more than $8 billion since 2002 in rebuilding the New Zealand Defence Force. Personnel numbers are up by 1000 on four years ago and are funded to increase overall numbers by around 12 per cent. A wage increase averaging 10-12 per cent has been put into effect this year to promote recruitment and retention.

"Obsolete and very old equipment is being replaced under a 10-year programme designed to give the Defence Force state of the art helicopters, vehicles, ships and other equipment.

"More than $900 million has been invested in two new helicopter fleets, with a further $800 million in upgrading Hercules and Orion aircraft and acquiring and modifying Boeing 757s.

"More than $500 million has been invested in the seven ships acquired as part of the Project Protector fleet, with upgrades of the frigates likely to cost around $700 million or more.

"The Army has state of the art light armoured vehicles and operational vehicles and new weapons acquisitions.

"Far from not being able to put people in the field as inaccurately claimed in today's Herald, some 600 New Zealanders are currently deployed operationally. In the case of Afghanistan, a company has been deployed sustainably since 2002, and in Timor Leste since 2006.

"A 172-strong company leaves New Zealand shortly for multi-lateral training in Germany, the first such exercise that New Zealand has been engaged in.

"New Zealand could deploy operationally a battalion if circumstances demanded, but this would require reprioritisation of current commitments," Phil Goff said.

"Contrary to the claims in Wayne Mapp's press statement today, the Australia study he quotes (Australian Strategic Policy Institute Report 2007) states about New Zealand's Defence Force: 'the armed forces are or are becoming modern, fully capable operational forces [which are] adopting appropriate levels of technology … New Zealand's defence relationships are strong and getting stronger'.

"It further states: 'Although all governments have always examined defence capabilities in terms of their own policy needs, the New Zealand Government has rarely done so as systematically and in such an integrated way as in the five or six years from 2000'.

"National's cuts by contrast were acknowledged by then Foreign Minister Don McKinnon in the Evening Post 3 July, 1997. He said: 'It has become clear we are struggling to maintain our capability at present levels. It is no secret that putting Kiwi Company into Bosnia put a major strain on our Defence Force. To maintain a similar peacekeeping unit now would be all but impossible'.

"Dr Mapp simply needs to answer one question. Would National increase expenditure on Defence, or even maintain it, or would it as is did in its last term run down the Defence Force by slashing both expenditure on equipment and personnel numbers?" Phil Goff said.


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