Maintaining A Credible Defence Force For New Zealand

  • Jenny Shipley
Prime Minister

Decisions announced today will maintain New Zealand's commitment to a credible defence force at an affordable cost, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said today.

"New Zealand needs a credible defence force to:

- maintain surveillance of our 200 mile economic zone
- build our peace keeping capability
- contribute to regional and international stability.

"Defence is one of the Government's priorities but must be balanced against other core responsibilities.

"With the Government's accounts currently under pressure, we need to tailor our defence spending at this time.

"This Government remains committed to the balanced force structure detailed in last year's Defence White Paper. The decisions announced today confirm that structure and that our highest immediate priority is to rebuild the Army's capability.

"The Army is the only service which will grow in numbers with the addition of two rifle companies, equipment and support personnel. Active personnel numbers will grow by about 500.

"We have already committed to a $500 million priority package to re-equip the Army, funded within the Defence Assessment programme agreed by the Government last year. This is well underway and will be completed within the next 18 months to two years.

"The Government will also be accelerating modifications to the Charles Upham to bring it to full capability as a military sea lift ship suited to meet our needs.

"We have also decided to replace our ageing Skyhawks with modern aircraft at a very reasonable cost.

"Cabinet has thoroughly examined all the defence re-equipment options proposed, including whether to order a replacement for HMNZS Canterbury. We decided not to order a replacement at this time and have asked for further work on options so a decision can be made prior to 2002.

"We listened to New Zealand and took into account public opinion on spending pressures, giving careful consideration to the wider social and economic priorities.

"The Government's decisions will enable New Zealand to meet its defence responsibilities and maintain defence links with our partners in a way that best suits our needs and capabilities," said Mrs Shipley.