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PM statement on defence purchasing decisions

23 August 2000 Media Statement
Statement on defence purchasing decisions

The Government has made its announcement about the first round of significant defence purchasing decisions in Parliament today.

The announcement carries through the Government's determination to give priority to the re-equipment of the New Zealand Army.

For too long the army has been the Cinderella of the New Zealand Defence Force. Yet it is the army which is carrying the major burden of New Zealand's defence deployments overseas.

The substantial commitment to United Nations peacekeeping in Bosnia in the mid-1990s showed up serious deficiencies in the army's equipment. Its armoured personnel carriers were too old to be reliable. Those same APCs are now in East Timor, even older and more unreliable. The army radios are also antiquated and have let our soldiers down.

When we are deploying into dangerous peacekeeping missions, as is obvious in East Timor, it is important that we back up the superb professionalism of our land force with decent equipment. The re-equipment announced today is a major step towards achieving that.

This government's defence policy follows the general direction set out in the Defence Beyond 2000 report of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee to develop capacities we do well and for which there is a demonstrated need in depth.

Doing what we do well in depth, and committing expenditure to that, will limit the breadth of our capabilities.

Defence purchasing is hugely expensive, and there are severe limits on what the Government can do without seriously affecting baseline expenditure on and capital provision for other top priorities like health, education, and infrastructure.

The purchasing of the armoured personnel carriers and radios for the army announced today represents a very significant increase in defence spending. It is not possible to accommodate that and other high priorities as well as invest in the proposed $562 million Orion upgrade.

In the coming years there will be more significant investment in the army, most notably in new land rovers; there will be expenditure on the Hercules and Iriquois fleets; there will be either an upgrade of the Charles Upham or a replacement vessel to meet maritime transport needs; and there will be consideration given to the purchase of a naval vessel in place of the Canterbury.

With respect to maritime surveillance, a group of ministers led by me will be re-examining what New Zealand's needs are. There are a range of important civilian functions to be covered, especially in the fisheries area, which have not had the priority they deserve while the Orion's focus has been heavily on their military capability.

In summary the government is investing heavily in defence, and is pursuing a strategy which will enable New Zealand to perform well those functions which dominate our deployments and meet our needs.

ENDS

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