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Roy: Territorial Force Employer Support Council

Territorial Force Employer Support Council Function
Hon Heather Roy, Associate Minister of Defence
Wednesday, November 11 2009

Hon Heather Roy address to the Territorial Force Employer Support Council (TFESC) Cocktail Function; Ohakea Air Force Base, Manawatu; Wednesday, November 11 2009.

Chairman of the Territorial Force Employer Support Council, John Allen; Mayor of Manawatu District Council, Ian McKelvie; Chair of Manawatu Chamber of Commerce, Paul O'Brien; senior NZDF officers, Manawatu Defence industry participants, TFESC members, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you and thank you also for giving up your valuable time to attend tonight.

Between personnel, commercial and industrial activity generated by bases, camps and Reserve units, the NZDF is well represented in this region. On the educational front, Massey University's Defence and Strategic Studies Centre and Palmerston North Boys High School's exciting leadership programme are just two examples of a growing relationship between our organisations. The Manawatu Defence Industry Hub is an important initiative, which offers a useful model for other regions in New Zealand to follow.

Tonight is a social occasion and, as such, offers us the opportunity to reflect on the social nature of Reserve Force service. We ask much of all servicemen and women and this is especially true of reservists who have to constantly balance the competing demands of military service, civilian work, family, community and leisure.

This is where the Territorial Forces Employer Support Council (TFESC) and its Regional Employer Support Committees play such a pivotal role. The TFESC is enshrined in legislation and leading New Zealanders are appointed by a Cabinet committee to connect with employers and communicate the benefits of Reserve Force service.

I have no doubt that encouraging Reserve Force service has huge potential to drive this region forward for the benefit of business, education, local and national institutions, and the New Zealand Defence Force.

Society at large is finding it harder and harder to attract volunteers to good causes like Rotary, charities and coaching kids sport. In the era of the market that never closes the line between night and day, weekday and weekend and on or off duty has blurred to the point it may as well be completely gone.
In the context of increasing tempo in society, the task of attracting and retaining reservists is even more challenging. The vast majority of volunteers for two world wars admit that their prime driver was adventure and mateship. It is especially relevant that tonight's gathering is on 11 November – Remembrance Day.

The key to success in national security is a three-part team - reservists, families and employers. Each group is critical to the development and success of the NZDF.

I want to speak frankly this evening - I am very concerned about the state of New Zealand's Reserve Forces. On paper right now, we have about 1800 soldiers and approximately 400 sailors and airmen. However, when matters of effectiveness are taken into account, it is realistic to consider only about half that number as being available for duty. Compared to allied countries, where Reserves comprise between 25 and 47 percent of total force structure, New Zealand sits well clear at the bottom of the table.

As you will be aware, we are in the midst of a Defence Review in New Zealand. The last review was in 1997 and it is widely acknowledged that this current work is long overdue – for many reasons; not just that 9/11 changed the security environment of the Western World. Defence Review 2009 is timely, and I am monitoring the Reserves work stream closely to see what is being considered.

I'm proud to be a field engineer in our Army Reserve and it both saddens and frustrates me that the Reserves have been allowed to run down to the point they are now at. In 1990 the NZDF Reserve Forces numbered over 6,200; by 1995 that had dropped to around 4,800 and the decline has continued to today's figure of about 2,200. In 1990, the TF was an important component of the divisional structure as it was then. The Navy Reserve was crewing four Moa Class patrol vessels. In regard to the latter, I am impressed with the quality of the new Navy inshore and offshore patrol vessels. But I would sooner see one or more of these ships crewed by Naval Reservists than tied up alongside for want of regular crews. I apply this same logic to all our defence platforms in my day to day ministerial decisions.

I don't want to dwell this evening on how we got to this point but, rather, on how we move forward to having a modern Defence Force – as described by a former CDF who spoke of an organisation that will thrive in a future that can not be predicted, a Defence Force where Regulars and Reserves are willing and able to work hand-in-glove.

This Government has plans to refocus capabilities into the future. Our Reserves have answered every call made of them since the 10 percent guidance for overseas deployment composition was issued in the late 90s. Many have made huge personal sacrifices in relation to family, work and income in order to serve on a full-time basis. Within weeks, it is impossible to tell Regular and Reservist apart. I am very proud of each and every one of them, and their families, and their employers. Together, they make up the three-part team that is the Reserve Forces. To provide Kiwis with the Defence Force they need demands that the Reserve Forces must grow.

You may be wondering where the numbers might come from for a larger Reserve Force. In parallel with the Defence Review, I am leading three companion studies: these address Defence Industry, the role of the NZDF in youth programmes, and Voluntary National Service. The latter study is being conducted by recently retired Brigadier Tim Brewer, who will be known to most of you as the former Director-General of Reserves and Cadets. VNS is a whole-of-Government concept that is similar to the US ‘Learn and Serve' schemes. If it is implemented, Reserve Force numbers will inevitably increase. There are also opportunities within the Defence Industry sector for closer ties with the Reserves, and that is an area where you all have a role to play.

Throughout history, Kiwis have always expressed our dislike for compulsion. This is reflected in attitudes to prohibition and in the frequent changes to Compulsory Military Training and National Service schemes over many decades. However, the retirement of the wartime generation of politicians and business leaders brought additional complications for those wishing to serve their country in a part-time capacity in the Defence Force.

For the first time, they had to explain the value of their service to employers in order to get leave to attend training or operations. Coupled with continuous rapid change and variable economic circumstances - now permanent features of our markets - it is not surprising that our Reserve Force numbers have sharply reduced from the 30,000 that existed in 1972.

As a consequence of the changes that my colleague, Dr Wayne Mapp, began nine years ago we now have the Territorial Forces Employer Support Council. The TFESC has played a key role in communicating and liaising with employers and employer groups since its inception. Under the guidance of Chairman, John Allen, the Council has put significant effort into informing employers about the value that they gain from encouraging their employees to serve in the Armed Forces. My thanks go to every member of the Council, past and present, who have given their time and experience to further this cause on behalf of our country.

Leadership is one of the most studied and also least understood talents. In the corporate world, the terms leadership and management are often used interchangeably. A cadet once asked a veteran instructor what the difference between the two was. After a moment's reflection, the Sergeant Major replied, "That's easy son - you can lead a man to his death but you can't manage him there."

That is why events like tonight are so important. As the heads of your respective organisations, your management ability is unquestioned. Tonight, you are here because you are leaders. You have led by example, made sacrifices personally and within your organisations for a greater good. Tonight, I am asking you to do that again and support and encourage your employees in their voluntary service to our nation – to help New Zealand play its role in the world, and to keep Kiwis safe.

In my view every employer, large or small, who supports New Zealand society - be it through encouraging staff in the Forces or via scholarships, donations or community events - is a leader and worthy of our acknowledgement. This evening you have the opportunity to join the group of New Zealand employers who have gone, as James Flecker wrote, "Always a little further" on behalf of New Zealand's Defence Forces.

To you and all those like you - thank you - on behalf of a grateful nation.

Lest we forget that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.


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