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Helen Clark Speech - Defence Issues for NZ

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister
Closing speech to NZDF Command No 48 Staff Course
Defence Issues for New Zealand

NZDF Command and Staff College
Trentham Military Camp
Upper Hutt

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Thank you for the invitation to address the No 48 Command and Staff Course.

I acknowledge the New Zealand members of this course, who include Defence Force and other government agency personnel, and the overseas students.

I note that a number of countries are represented : Australia, Papua New Guinea, the People’s Republic of China, the Philippines, Singapore, and Tonga. I hope you have enjoyed your time in New Zealand.

In my address today I will talk about the broader security environment in which New Zealand operates. I will focus particularly on how we plan for, equip, and deploy our defence force, but will also acknowledge that defending our interests is a multifaceted task, and that we bring a whole of government approach to it.

When it’s considered that security challenges run the gamut from illegal fishing and biosecurity incursions, to instability in our Pacific neighbourhood, and, further afield, terrorism and nuclear proliferation, it’s clear that many agencies of state must be involved in asserting and protecting our interests.

Over the last seven years our government has committed an extra NZ$7.6 billion to defence spending. That has enabled us to upgrade and replace capital equipment as part of the Defence Long-Term Development Plan, and focus on additional recruitment and improved retention of personnel as part of the Defence Sustainability Initiative.

The plan for this programme of renewal was set out in the Government’s Defence Policy Framework published in June 2000.

The Framework provides the strategic direction for our defence policy. It acknowledges that ensuring the security and safety of the nation is a fundamental objective of any sovereign state.

The Framework states that New Zealand itself is not directly threatened by any other country and is not likely to be involved in widespread armed conflict. It identifies no country as being of direct threat to New Zealand. It makes the point that security is more than just defence against conventional military threats.

The Framework includes in New Zealand’s primary defence interests protecting our territorial sovereignty ; keeping our close defence relationship with Australia in good order; meeting our particular responsibilities in the South Pacific; maintaining good relations in the wider Asia-Pacific ; and meeting our multilateral obligations, particularly through the United Nations.

New Zealand, as an internationally minded country with interests around the globe, benefits from a well functioning international system in which the rights and interests of small countries like ours are protected. We are strong multilateralists.

We contribute to the effective operation of the international system in a number of ways – through diplomacy, through our development assistance, and through the ideas and practices we share with others in a variety of regional and wider gatherings – the Bali climate change talks this week being one of many examples.

As well, our defence force deployments play a part in New Zealand meeting its obligations to be a good international citizen.

Regional Issues

In the Pacific, we have special obligations to our Pacific neighbours to assist in maintaining stability, promoting good governance and in supporting development. Across Tonga, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, and the Bougainville Province of Papua New Guinea, our defence force has helped steady things at times of crisis. Our Police also play a role in mentoring, advising, and occasionally leading local police forces.

It is important to us that there is a solid level of consent for our deployments as peacebuilders to other nations. That can become more difficult as time goes on. Striking a balance on military/humanitarian involvement and outsider/local involvement can also be delicate.

Border security

Border threats are a downside of globalisation. We benefit from the freer flow of goods, services and people throughout the world, but terrorists, criminals, drug barons and people smugglers also benefit from that freedom.

So too, do those who wish to trade in weapons of mass destruction and other dangerous goods. We have to take strong measures to deal with these unwelcome exploiters of our increasingly integrated world.

Other threats post 9/11

Terrorism is a global challenge, which by its nature can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime.

New Zealanders, like the nationals of many countries, have been killed in different locations around the world as a result of terrorist activities.

Dealing with the causes of terrorism is far more complex and long term than simply attempting to stabilise a situation through military means. It requires a comprehensive approach which tackles terrorism’s root causes – whether they be ethnic or religious conflict, poor governance, poverty, or discrimination to name just a few. It needs a co-ordinated international response of the kind only the United Nations has the mandate to provide.

That includes a response based on dialogue. New Zealand is a strong supporter of the UN’s Alliance of Civilisations initiative which looks at how we can engage across civilisations’ boundaries and build greater understanding of our diversity

Other challenges like natural disasters, global warming, or the spread of infectious diseases, are also part of our broader security environment.

In some cases, like a major a natural disaster, military assets are best placed to deal with the immediate consequences.

The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia is a good example. Here many states’ military assets, working in conjunction with local people and NGOs, were able to provide essential aid in the immediate aftermath, and also reconstruction assistance over the medium term to help rebuild devastated areas.

All these challenges, by their nature, call for collective action, appropriate responses and genuine commitment – solutions to which New Zealand is dedicated. In order to be positioned to respond, the New Zealand Defence Force needs key resources – good people and the right equipment.

NZDF capability challenges

The current operational tempo of the New Zealand Defence Force is high.

We currently have over 400 New Zealand Defence Force men and women deployed overseas on security and peacekeeping operations. These operations are not entirely centred on the Defence Force. More and more the Government is calling on other agencies to support these missions.

In Afghanistan, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands for example, NZ Police are contributing essential elements to the operations. That is why I am particularly pleased to see that this course has personnel from other New Zealand agencies on it.

The situation in Afghanistan, particularly in the South and East, continues to be difficult. It will require political and development solutions, as well as military, if the international community’s objectives are to be secured.

The New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction team in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, continues to be warmly welcomed by the local Hazara people. It is widely regarded by other countries operating in Afghanistan as a model operation of its type.

But the reality is that this has been a long commitment already. I do not see an early end. Our government has just announced the continuation of our Bamiyan deployment until at least 2009.

I strongly believe that we are making a difference. We are contributing to stability in Bamiyan province. Multilaterally, we are well respected. We are genuinely thanked for our contribution. Don’t ever think that because we can’t deploy assets or people in the same numbers as other countries that we are not appreciated in these theatres. We are.

Our actions in Afghanistan remind us that the New Zealand Defence Force has long distinguished itself in the range of humanitarian and peace support operations that it has undertaken. But there are times when the use of force is required. That is why the Defence Force is trained and equipped for all contingencies, including combat.

This has been underlined by the recent award of the Victoria Cross to Corporal Willie Apiata for his conduct when his SAS group was ambushed by Taliban fighters in 2003. This was a salutary reminder to us all that our Defence Force personnel face considerable risk when deployed.

In Timor Leste, over 170 personnel, including two helicopter squadrons, are working hard. CDF Mateparae was there in August and has reported that while the situation there seemed calm at the time, in reality it remains both volatile and dependent on the International Security Force and the United Nations policing operation.

In Solomons Islands we continue to have the presence of a 43-strong platoon from the New Zealand Defence Force and up to 35 police officers as part of the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI). RAMSI was re-endorsed at this year’s Pacific Forum Leaders’ meeting in Tonga following a positive review by a Forum Task Force sent there.

RAMSI has succeeded in providing stability and security, and supporting renewed development in the Solomons, drawing that country back from the brink of being a failed state. It has overwhelming support from the local people.

Its relationship with the Soloman Islands government is uneasy, but our government and others, in conjunction with the Pacific Islands Forum is doing its best to work the issues through with the Solomons Government.

Defence Force personnel are also tackling challenges in other areas of the globe. These are as diverse as the recent deployment to Lebanon to remove unexploded ordinance and cluster munitions, or to peacekeeping in the Sinai where I visited eleven days ago – and where we have been deployed since the early 1980s.

I recognise that our Defence Force is working very hard, and that our many deployments place a lot of pressure on individuals, units, families, and communities. Yet the regional and international challenges which exist require a constructive response from New Zealand.

The high operational tempo at which the New Zealand Defence Force continues to operate provides good reasons for the investment we are currently making in the equipment modernisation programme.

We want our defence contributions to be valued. To this end, we have continued the process of modernising and rebuilding the New Zealand Defence Force, following its running down in the 1990s. This alone is a challenge, because we are asking the Defence Force to maintain a high level of operations while also introducing substantial new and upgraded capability over the next few years.

A July 18 article in Jane’s Defence Weekly summed up the difficulties for nations in judging which areas of capability to develop. It noted that:

“finding a balance between force structure, budget, modernisation and adaptation to new missions remains the major task for military decision-makers”.

In the New Zealand Defence Force:

• Every platform in the Air Force is being replaced or upgraded.

There will be new NH-90 helicopters, new Augusta-Westland 109 training and light utility helicopters, upgraded P-3 Orions and C-130 Hercules and a new Advanced Pilot Training Capability.

There will also be significant investment in the defence airforce infrastructure, particularly at Ohakea.

• For the Navy, the major Project Protector continues to come online.

I was proud to launch HMNZS Canterbury in Melbourne in May. By this time next year, the project will have delivered seven new ships.

We have recently also committed NZ$50-60m to the Platform Systems Upgrade of the ANZAC frigates, Te Mana and Te Kaha. This followed a decision to upgrade the ANZAC frigate’s Close in Weapons System earlier this year.

• The New Zealand Army, meanwhile, is continuing to introduce into service the large number of new and upgraded capabilities it has acquired over the past few years. It has new fleets of Light Armoured Vehicles, and also Light Operational Vehicles, the Pinzgauers.

These latter vehicles have proved to be enormously versatile and successful, including the Special Forces variant that has operated in Afghanistan.

The Army also has new mobile radio equipment, night vision equipment, medium anti-armour javelin missiles and a cueing and radar directed air defence system.

The capability enhancements will not stop here. We will continue to increase the operational capability of the New Zealand Defence Force.

Projects due to be considered next year by Cabinet include an upgrade to the P-3 Orions Self Protection System, a Self Defence Upgrade for the ANZAC frigates, and the replacement of the Army’s General Service Vehicle Fleet.

The costs of rebuilding the New Zealand Defence Force as a small but highly capable and well equipped military have been considerable.

Then, to deploy Defence Force personnel overseas with new equipment is one thing. But we also need to have the people to do this. Recruiting and retaining personnel is a particular challenge where unemployment is very low – as it is in New Zealand right now.

A whole-of-government approach

The challenges of terrorism, transnational crime, natural disasters, state fragility in our region, and possible global pandemics are challenges not just for our armed forces, but for all security agencies.

Such initiatives as Project Protector recognise that security agencies need to come together to achieve common aims.

Project Protector represents a significant increase in capability for the Navy in the ability to support multi-agency operations and tasking.

Agencies involved include Customs, the National Maritime Co-ordination Centre, the Department of Conservation, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Fisheries, Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Police.

Once in service, the Navy’s new Offshore and Inshore Patrol Vessels will undertake maritime surface surveillance in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the fourth largest in the world, and the South Pacific.

The patrol vessels will work in conjunction with maritime patrol aircraft and other government agencies to protect our natural resources, and detect and deter maritime transnational threats. They will be available to conduct multi-agency operations in support of national security tasks.

Counter terrorism has also been pursued as a whole-of-government exercise. We have improved our intelligence capability, our border control, and the capacity of other agencies. We have also taken the message of the importance of counter-terrorism to our neighbours.

Defence Relationships

In 1986, under the Fourth Labour Government, our decision to legislate for New Zealand to be free of nuclear weapons and nuclear powered ships saw New Zealand excluded from the operations of the ANZUS alliance.

We retain close defence relationships with Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Malaysia. We work alongside the United States, particularly in Afghanistan.

The defence and foreign policies New Zealand pursues reflect a careful balancing of our interests. We are a proud, independent, and sovereign nation. We are acknowledged as a country which operates constructively and on the basis of principle. We meet our international responsibilities.


The current international security environment is complex and fluid.

The events of 9/11 were a major security shock. Such shocks are unpredictable. But we have to be able to adapt our responses to the needs which arise as we have.

When I became Prime Minister eight years ago, the last thing I could have imagined was that our government would be deploying defence force personnel to Afghanistan. But we have because the circumstances compelled us to do so. And we are proud of the service our people have given there.

To the New Zealand members of this course, I want to thank you once again for the role you play in the defence of New Zealand and the region in promoting our values and interests when you are deployed further afield.

To the overseas members of the course, I hope that the New Zealand Defence Force spirit and ethos with which you have been associated for the last few months will be remembered by you when you return to your countries.

Have a safe journey home.

Thank you.


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