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Niche Force Won’t Protect New Zealand’s Interests

New Zealand would be unable to play its role in world affairs or protect its own backyard if Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee report proposals were adopted, Defence Minister Max Bradford says.

“The Government agrees with the committee that New Zealand should continue to play a part in world affairs, but the isolationist approach of having a limited niche force would not allow us to do this

“On the face of it, this report would fundamentally change the defence relationship we have with Australia, which would be a matter of serious concern,” he said.

“A balanced Defence Force, with a naval and strike aircraft capability, is vital to meet our security, trading, foreign affairs and Closer Defence Relationship commitments.

“The Government is spending $500 million to upgrade army equipment and improve its peacekeeping and combat capability. However, we cannot predict the future and must be able to respond to different scenarios.”

Mr Bradford said the lessons of history, which have cost so many New Zealanders’ lives to learn, should not be ignored.

“Kosovo showed that in modern warfare, air combat power is more important than ever. It is vital to protect the lives of our troops on the ground and support our frigates.

“With New Zealand’s large EEZ we must have a blue water navy to protect our territorial waters,” he said.

“Earlier this year, Te Kaha patrolled for toothfish poachers in storm-prone Antarctic waters.

“We could not have safely done this with patrol boats and would have had to bludge on our neighbours in a time of need,” Mr Bradford said.

Mr Bradford said the Government would undertake a serious review of the report and would issue a written response.


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