Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says the Government is committed to strengthening the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), and will be investing $100.9 million of operating funding in 2014/2015.
“This significant investment in our Defence Force, combined with the savings and reinvestment achieved through recent reforms, means the Government is addressing the long term funding gap which we inherited,” Dr Coleman says.
“We greatly value the ongoing work and commitment of NZDF personnel. The NZDF’s work is vital to wider New Zealand interests, and the tempo of activity is high. Recent examples include the Air Force delivering aid to the Solomon Islands, and supporting the international effort to search for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane MH370.
“The frigate Te Mana deployed to the Gulf of Aden to conduct anti-piracy operations, and the Navy continues to support a range of Government agencies within our Exclusive Economic Zone. Army personnel serve internationally in a range of missions, and closer to home, they recently supported storm relief efforts on the West Coast.”
Budget 2014 confirms the NZDF’s funding approach agreed by Cabinet in November 2013 after the Defence Mid-Point Rebalancing Review.
“The Government’s investment of $100.9 million in 2014/2015 is the first stage of an allocation of $535.5 million operating funding for the NZDF over the next four years,” Dr Coleman says.
“It is vital that the NZDF can continue to meet the Government’s requirements, whether it is carrying out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief work at home or in the Pacific, or contributing to wider global security efforts.
“This is why the Government is funding the people and equipment needed to deliver on the 2010 Defence White Paper – enabling the NZDF to protect and advance New Zealand’s interests at home, in the South Pacific and globally.”
The Defence White Paper signalled that new money would be required over time to maintain and improve NZDF capabilities. The Government commissioned the Defence Mid-Point Rebalancing Review to look at the costing of various combinations of capabilities that would enable the NZDF to meet the Government’s expectations.
The new funding outlined in Budget 2014 will enable the NZDF to maintain and improve its current mix of capabilities, and sustain and grow personnel numbers over time. It also allows the Government to continue to modernise and upgrade the NZDF’s capability.
“There has been considerable investment in defence under this Government. In the last year, we purchased new naval helicopters, army trucks and a pilot training package,” Dr Coleman says.
“What’s more, the Government will shortly be awarding the contracts for a new battle training facility for the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) and a systems upgrade for the Navy’s frigates. A decision will also be taken on a replacement for the Navy’s tanker Endeavour.”
Since 2010, the NZDF has operated within fixed baselines, reflecting the tough fiscal environment. At the same time, the NZDF successfully delivered significant reform with a focus on delivering back-office efficiencies.
“The NZDF has made significant progress on its savings and redistribution programme since 2010, and $204 million has been reprioritised across the NZDF,” Dr Coleman says.
“The NZDF remains committed to making ongoing savings and efficiencies as part of its future planning. This is vital in order for the NZDF to sustain its capability.”
Press Release, April 29, 2014; Image: New Zealand Navy