Defence Minister Ron Mark highlights recent work done by the NZDF, indicating Defence Estate focus will follow soon-to-be published Defence Capability Plan.
Last year we launched the Coalition Government’s Strategic Defence Policy Statement. In it we talked about Defence’s value to the Community, the Nation and the World. We also talked about some of the challenges we’re going to face in the future.
Sometimes, these documents are launched to great fanfare and then sit on the shelf. While they might guide policy professionals behind the scenes, they don’t make much difference in the real world.
I’m proud to say that the Strategic Defence Policy Statement is not one of those documents. On the contrary, Defence is stepping up its work in a number of areas, and the month of February was a fantastic example.
Let’s start with their work in the Community. The headline for February was their work on the Nelson Fires. 157 Defence Personnel deployed at short notice to work in logistics and support roles, a Hercules was also used to get firefighters and emergency services personnel into the operations area. Security patrols kept evacuated properties secure. Above all they kept the emergency workers on the front line fed.
Alongside this, the Air Force supported MPI in their fight against wilding pines and racked up big hours doing search and rescues around the country.
The Navy were also excellent in their support of Waitangi Day and Napier’s Art Deco weekend.
Moving on to work for our Nation. The Air Force continued to support Antarctic operations with three flights carrying 356 passengers and 306kg of freight. They also spent over 30 hours supporting the Police in their annual cannabis recovery efforts, alongside a further 6.2 hours supporting Customs work preventing illegal drugs coming into our nation.
The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams were called out 20 times.
Around the world, the NZDF sent six personnel to Fiji to assist in their preparation for a UN Deployment to the Middle East, for a review of their military justice system. Firefighting was again on the agenda with five personnel deployed to Tasmania, and a P-3 Orion was dispatched to the Solomon Islands to conduct fisheries patrols.
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On top of this, the NZDF continued to do excellent work in its ongoing deployments to South Sudan, Mali, Israel/Lebanon, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Republic of Korea.
The NZDF provides outstanding value to New Zealand. This value is driven by the quality of our people.
I recently travelled to the Middle East and Sudan to visit our deployments. The messages I heard from our partners was the same no matter where I went; “We couldn’t do this without you.”
It is Government’s role to support our women and men in uniform through good policy. We’ve laid the foundation with our policy work, and the NZDF has stepped up in a big way.
Our updated Defence Capability Plan will identify the equipment we will need to purchase over the next decade in order to support our people, and is in the final stages of preparation for release.
Once that is done, our focus will shift to the Defence Estate. It’s becoming clear we are at a critical point when it comes to the Defence Estate, and we’re going to have think a bit differently in order to provide the right facilities, to go with the right platforms which in turn will support our outstanding people in enacting our defence policy.
Unfortunately, Defence equipment and Estate have been run down over decades, and the nature of the Defence portfolio is we cannot turn it around overnight. But we have made huge progress already, with the decision to procure the P-8 Poseidons, the purchase of the Dive/Hydro vessel, the new King Airs, the Frigate upgrade and the many other significant investments made in Budget 18.
With the calibre of people we have in Defence we’re in good shape to continue to make great strides in this term of Government, and beyond.