Process on NZDF deployments corrected

  • Hon Ron Mark

Two separate technical issues with regards to New Zealand Defence Force deployments have been identified and remedied by the Coalition Government. 

As part of the formal approval process for any deployment of New Zealand Defence Force personnel overseas, Cabinet agrees to the total number of personnel able to be deployed, the length of the deployment, and the activities mandated to be carried out.

In 2012, Cabinet acknowledged that there are routine moments within a deployment where these numbers need to be exceeded to facilitate the mission, including rotations of personnel into theatre, command reconnaissance visits, and extraction or introduction of forces into a theatre.

At this time, Cabinet agreed that officials should include a standard piece of text in future Cabinet papers for overseas deployments granting the Chief of Defence Force the authority to temporarily increase numbers deployed for the purposes of rotations, command reconnaissance, and extraction or introduction of forces into a theatre. 

Recently officials identified an error in several Cabinet Papers that established the mandate for overseas deployments, in that the required proforma piece of text had not been included. This error has now been corrected by the Government. However, the error led to Defence exceeding its mandate 80 times.

“Rotations of personnel in overseas deployments, command reconnaissance visits, and extraction or introduction of forces into a theatre, are all standard practice, and business as usual for any military,” says Minister of Defence Ron Mark.

“Cabinet recognised this in 2012 when it directed officials to seek this authority at the beginning of each deployment through the authorising Cabinet paper, including a standard paragraph noting this authority. 

“We have subsequently discovered that six of the New Zealand Defence Force’s eight current deployments do not contain this standard piece of text, due to drafting errors by officials.”

“The deployments affected are South Sudan, Lebanon/Golan Heights, Sinai, Republic of Korea and Afghanistan. While the provision was not included in the authorising Cabinet paper for the Mali mission, it was not required due to it being a one-off deployment of one person. The Cabinet minutes for Iraq and for Maritime Security and Support Operations do contain the provision referred to in the 2012 Cabinet minute.

“It should be noted that the 2012 Cabinet decision also required the Chief of Defence Force to inform the Minister of Defence in advance whenever such temporary increases of personnel would occur. I can confirm this has occurred in every instance over the last six years.

“While this is a regrettable technical error, it would have been far preferable if it had never occurred. I’m satisfied this was a genuine administrative error,” says Ron Mark.

 Error related to the 2015 Cabinet Minute for the Iraq deployment

Additionally, a misinterpretation of a 2015 Cabinet minute establishing the deployment to Iraq, has meant two deployments of additional personnel to Taji, in January 2016 and June 2017 respectively, were technically outside of the Cabinet mandate for the mission.

This was due to a difference in the advice contained in the Cabinet paper seeking approval for the deployment, and the subsequently published Cabinet Minute of the decision.

“Defence officials brought this issue to the attention of Ministers and we have confirmed that any increases to the number of personnel based at Taji would need to be approved by Ministers,” says Ron Mark.

“This means that while the total number of personnel deployed under the Iraq mandate (143) was never exceeded, a cap of 106 personnel deployed to Taji was exceeded on two occasions as personnel drawn from the total 143 Iraq deployment were briefly facilitating activities at Taji.

“We understand how this issue occurred and we have remedied it so it does not arise again,” says Ron Mark.

Links to information:

Advice to Cabinet on the personnel rotations issue can be found at:

A link to a submission to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence on the use of operational contingency for the Taji deployment  can be found at:

A link to material regarding 2018 operational decisions related to the Iraq deployment can be found at:

A background briefing to the Minister of Defence on New Zealand’s Military Contributions to the Defeat-ISIS Coalition in Iraq can be found at:

A link to a submission to the Minister of Defence on Current New Zealand Defence Force Deployments: Proposed Public Release of Information can be found at:

The website detailing defence deployments can be found at:

 Defence deployment cabinet papers being proactively released are advertised on the homepage: