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Chief Of Army: Confidence In Safety Of Unimog's

17 August 2006

Chief Of Army: Confidence In Safety Of Unimog Fleet

Major General Lou Gardiner, Chief of Army, has expressed his continued confidence in the Army's UNIMOG fleet of vehicles.

"Firstly, on behalf of the New Zealand Army I wish to reiterate my deepest regret and sympathy to the family of Private Meredith Simms. He was a valued member of the Army and will be sadly missed by us all. Our thoughts are also with the seriously injured soldier who remains in Wellington Hospital.

"This terrible tragedy has once again created media speculation over the safety of the Army's Mercedes Benz UNIMOG fleet. I remain fully confident in our fleet. We have operated a large fleet of UNIMOGs for over 20 years and we drive 2.8 million kilometres per year in these vehicles. They are very well serviced and maintained, continue to meet all legal requirements for road worthiness, meet our operational requirements and continue to serve the Army well.

"The UNIMOG is the Army's workhorse. It is used for the movement of personnel, stores, and equipment. It continues to be an essential component in supporting personnel throughout New Zealand on military exercises, routine training activities, and when Army is required to assist in disaster relief and rescue operations.

"We must be cautious about linking UNIMOG accidents. The situations surrounding each incident have been different and there is no evidence to suggest a single cause.

Both the New Zealand Police and the Army have fully investigated each fatal accident and I am confident we have already taken a number of robust steps to rectify any issues the inquiries identified.

"A review into driver training was initiated in 2005 and the recommendations have been continuously implemented across the organisation. The results indicated the Army was providing a very high level of driver training and that the training is provided in a manner that ensures our soldiers are not exposed to unnecessary risk.

"Driving is, by its very nature, dangerous. It is the most significant day to day risk faced by all New Zealanders. We have a duty to prepare our soldiers to do their jobs and do them well. Their jobs involve doing risky and at times dangerous tasks, they deploy overseas and many will be required to drive military vehicles on what are little more than goat tracks - certainly not state highways.

"I require the Army to provide robust, realistic and challenging training within safety margins, preparing our soldiers for their important jobs both here and overseas."

ENDS


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