Budget 2023: Building For Tomorrow? Military Spending Increases Again
Despite the rapidly escalating climate emergency and desperate need for increased funding for failing social services, a record $6,632,445,000 military spending has been allocated in the 2023 ‘Support for Today, Building for Tomorrow’ Wellbeing Budget - an average of more than $127.5 million every week, and an increase of 12.2% on actual spending in 2022. 
This shocking increase illustrates yet again that instead of building for the future, the government remains stuck in the same old thinking about ‘security’, choosing to focus on an outdated narrow concept of military security rather than real security that gives all New Zealanders the chance to flourish.
It is repugnant that funding for combat-ready armed forces continues to be a spending priority when there are so many other major issues facing Aotearoa: the impact of the climate emergency, the shameful levels of poverty and social inequality, lack of affordable housing, failing health system and substandard hospital buildings, and a range of other areas requiring urgent attention. Military spending negatively impacts all of these by diverting resources that could be put to better use.
There is an increasingly desperate need for climate funding for communities affected by sea level rises and extreme weather events here in Aotearoa and the Pacific, yet the entire allocation for Vote Environment - which includes the appropriations for the Minister of Climate Change - is equivalent to less than 26 weeks of military spending.
It is more obvious than ever before, with the future of life on earth at stake, that states must work together to find sustainable solutions, instead of continuing to pour public money into wasteful destructive military activity - the ultimate in unsustainability, with military emissions estimated to be at least 5.5% of the global total.
Yet while diplomacy and negotiation are clearly more positive ways for New Zealand to relate to communities in other parts of the world than deploying combat-ready armed forces overseas, the total amount allocated for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (including overseas development assistance) is less than 18 weeks of military spending.
Instead of continuing to focus on outdated narrow military security concepts, we urgently need to transition from combat-ready armed forces to civilian agencies that meet the wider security needs of all New Zealanders and our Pacific neighbours. Given New Zealand’s comparatively limited resources, it simply makes no sense to continue to spend billions on combat equipment and military activities every year.
Fisheries and resource protection, border control, and maritime search and rescue could be better done by a civilian coastguard with inshore and offshore capabilities, equipped with a range of vehicles, vessels and aircraft that are suitable for our coastline, Antarctica and the Pacific, which - along with equipping civilian agencies for land-based search and rescue, and for humanitarian assistance here and overseas - would be a much cheaper option as none of these require expensive combat hardware. 
That would also surely be a more useful contribution than New Zealand continuing to be involved in destructive full-scale combat assaults on land and sea through day to day military training, and military ‘exercises’ such as RIMPAC that are not only costly, but also harmful to the environment, marine and other life, while increasing New Zealand’s climate-destroying emissions and wasting non-renewable resources.
The escalating climate emergency demands that new thinking about how best to meet our real security needs is critical. Instead of persisting with the destructive deadly ideology of militarism that harms the future of humanity and the planet, New Zealand could - and should - lead the way to a positive future. Instead of continuing down the path of spending more than $6 billion each year and $20 billion plus over the next decade for increased combat capability, including new military aircraft and warships, this is an opportune time to choose a new and better way forward.
A transition from combat-ready armed forces to civilian agencies, along with increased funding for diplomacy and climate justice, would ensure New Zealand could make a far more positive contribution to wellbeing and real security for all New Zealanders and at the regional and global levels, than it can by continuing to maintain and re-arm small but costly armed forces. Only then will we finally see a Budget that really does build for tomorrow.
Where you can get more information: Further information is available on the Aotearoa New Zealand Campaign on Military Spending page, http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/gdams.htm
 This is the total across the three Budget Votes where most military expenditure is itemised: Vote Defence Force $5,261,824,000; Vote Defence $1,368,269,000; and Vote Education $1,176,000. The 2022 estimated actual expenditure total was $5,908,692,000.
 For more information about the multiple costs of maintaining combat-ready armed forces and better ways forward, see ‘#BudgetForPeace! Submission on Budget 2023 Policy’, Peace Movement Aotearoa, 27 January 2023, at www.converge.org.nz/pma/budget-policy-sub,jan2022.pdf and ‘Submission: Defence Policy Review’, Peace Movement Aotearoa, 29 April 2023, http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/def-rev-sub,apr23.pdf