Speech to the 2019 Defence Industry Advisory Council and Defence Employer Support Council Awards

  • Hon Ron Mark

Tērā te haeata takiri ana mai i runga o Pukaha!

Ara tai uru, whai uru, whai uru!

Ara whai ato, whai ato, whai ato!

Ara rā tini, ara rā tini, ara ri!

The rays of the morning sun strike a new dawn upon Pukaha Mt Bruce!

Rise up the inland, follow it through,

fence it in, surround it,

arise the many, the innumerable, arise indeed!

E Te Whare o Pāremata - Tena koe

E nga Tangata whenua o Te Ati Awa, o Taranaki Whanui Tena koutou

It is my pleasure to be hosting the Minister of Defence Awards of Excellence for Industry and Employer Support at Parliament for the very first time.

Convening the awards in this venue is in recognition of Defence industry as a key partner and fundamental enabler of New Zealand Defence.  

Tonight we also recognise organisations from across New Zealand and overseas that provide goods and services to Defence, employ defence people, and who support the Defence Force by generously allowing their staff to meaningfully contribute to our national resilience and community well-being as members of the Reserve and Cadet Forces, and support the Limited Service Volunteer scheme.

Many of you here tonight who provide that support have travelled long distances to be here.

Some have come as far as Norway – thank you.

I would like to begin by acknowledging Bevan Killick, the Chair of the Defence Employer Support Council, and Greg Lowe, the Chair of the Defence Industry Advisory Council for co-hosting this awards dinner with me.

I also want to acknowledge Your Worships the Mayors of Palmerston North City, Rangitikei, Taraua, and Wellington, Grant Smith, Andy Watson, Tracey Collis, and Andy Foster; Secretary of Defence, Andrew Bridgman; Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short; the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the United States Navy International Programmes, Rear Admiral Frank Morley; Service Chiefs and Deputy Secretaries; representatives of industry; Defence personnel and officials; distinguished guests.

This is an important event.

In a nation, region and world confronting many security challenges, New Zealand Defence is not only leading our response in meeting many of those challenges, but it also reflects the spirit of how New Zealanders would want that done.  

24 hours a day, 365 days a year, our Defence Force is working to keep New Zealanders and their interests safe and secure.

It is for this reason that public trust and confidence in our Armed Forces and those who support them, including Defence industry, is high.

The opportunity, therefore, to recognise industry excellence in not only supporting our Servicemen and women, but also our communities is important and worth celebrating.

A priority for this Government is to ensure our Defence Force personnel have the capabilities they need to do the jobs expected of them, often in very demanding environments.  

Launched in June, the 2019 Defence Capability Plan set out the Coalition Government’s vision for the future Defence Force.

The Plan was the outcome of a comprehensive review of the Defence procurement programme and the policies underpinning it.

That review was signalled in the Coalition Agreement signed in October 2017.

The end result is a government commitment to renew all of the Defence Force’s major capabilities, as well as regenerate the Defence Estate.

While the Defence Capability Plan maintains the envelope of $20 billion in new investment out to 2030, it gives that investment a much sharper and human focus.

It recognises the vital role the Defence Force plays in promoting the overall well-being and resilience of New Zealand, its communities and the environment.

As the only agency of Government with large numbers of disciplined and skilled personnel available at short notice and that operates large fleets of vehicles, ships and aircraft, the New Zealand Defence Force is a national asset that delivers value to the Community, Nation and World.

But the environment in which that value is earned is complex and changing.

As a nation, we face compounding challenges as tensions in the Asia Pacific region grow and the international-rules based order that has underpinned our prosperity is under pressure.

We face a number of complex disruptors, including climate change, which will test State resilience, both at home and in the South Pacific – two areas where New Zealand Defence Force leadership is non-discretionary.

As Minister of Defence, I am very proud that our planning for the future Defence Force placed climate change at the forefront of the challenges facing our nation and region, and that our investment intentions reflect this.

I am equally proud that my most recent statements underpinning this Government’s investment in Defence have focused on advancing Pacific partnerships and responding to climate change.

These policy statements reflect a lift in our strategic ambition for the region putting the Defence Force’s ability to operate in the South Pacific on par with New Zealand’s territory, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica.

Harnessing the collective skills and energy of our people – Regular Force, Reserve Force, civilians, and industry – starts from having a robust plan and a track record of delivery.

Tonight, I am very proud to say that our track record on implementing the 2019 Defence Capability Plan has included some of the biggest decisions in over 35 years.  

Since coming to Office, the Government has approved contracts with industry worth over $3 billion in new military capability and infrastructure.

The decision to acquire the P-8 Poseidon aircraft demonstrates this Government’s commitment to a combat capable Defence Force that is flexible and can support security for New Zealand and the South Pacific, whilst also contributing to efforts to reinforce the international rules based order.

Investment in infrastructure to support the P-8 capability will inject over $300 million into the Manawatu and Rangitikei regions, while the through-life dividend could be four times that.

That investment commences on Friday with the turning of soil to start the infrastructure build at Ohakea for the P-8 capability.

The Government has also announced the C-130J Super Hercules as the preferred option for the replacement of our aging C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Other highlights in delivering on our ambitions for the future Defence Force include the purchase and delivery of a new dive and hydrographic vessel, HMNZS Manawanui, the naming and commencement of sea trials for HMNZS Aotearoa, the build of an NH90 Flight Training Simulator and, as part of the Network Enabled Army programme, the further rollout of a modern communications and combat management system for our soldiers.

We have also started early industry engagement on the Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel.

In light of the Government’s commitment to implementing the Defence Capability Plan, business confidence in the sector should be high.

For every dollar spent on new capability, three to four dollars are spent supporting it through life.

Currently over 2,000 suppliers are engaged in supporting our air, land and maritime capabilities.

These suppliers range in size from one to over 500 staff.

They are based not only in the major centres, but also in regional hubs in Whangarei, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Blenheim and Nelson.

In Whangarei, McKay Electrical has a workforce of over 300 people providing electrical services to the marine and naval sectors. 

In Palmerston North, Noske Kaeser employs 25 locals in building and supporting marine and transport heating and ventilation systems.

And in Hamilton, two very different companies, Tidd Ross Todd and Loop Technologies between them employ over 300 people in manufacturing transport systems and repairing and re-engineering electrical systems.

Many suppliers to the Defence Force are also exporting their products and services into Australia and further afield.

I am told that the Defence sector generates $125 million in wages, and $60 million in profits.

I suspect these numbers are much higher.

I am also confident that on the back of the Government’s investment in Defence these figures will grow.

There is a great story here of industry working in partnership with Defence to deliver value to the Community, Nation, and World.

We need to get better at telling that story.

It is important, therefore, that tonight we recognise those suppliers who have demonstrated excellence in supporting the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force, as well as their communities.

Tonight’s finalists and winners demonstrate that this support can come in a number of forms.

Your common factor, however, is that most of you here tonight work for organisations based, or with a base, in New Zealand employing New Zealanders and supporting a local supply chain.

Many of you are at the forefront of technological innovation, both at home and overseas.

Many of you not only supply goods and services to the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force, but you actively encourage and support your staff as members of the New Zealand Defence Force Reserves and New Zealand Cadet Force.

Without that support our Reserves could not train and our Cadet Forces would cease to operate.

So employers, thank you for the sacrifices you make to allow your reservists and volunteers support the New Zealand Defence Force.

Tonight, we also recognise those companies which work with the Defence Force’s Youth Development Unit and the Ministry of Social Development in helping our young people turn their lives around through the Limited Service Volunteer programme.

Also known as LSV.

Over 16,000 trainees have gone through the LSV programme.

Having recently opened new, purpose built youth development facilities at Whenuapai Air Base and Trentham these numbers are about to grow, delivering on a Coalition promise.

Many of you here tonight will be aware of my passion and belief in the value of the LSV programme.

As a young man, I certainly benefited from the opportunity to serve in the New Zealand Defence Force.

The pride and leadership I see in our young servicemen and women today points to this being a common experience. 

Instilling this same sense of purpose and motivation into our LSV trainees is delivering positive outcomes, not only for the trainees, but also their families and their communities.

A recent review of the LSV programme by the Ministry of Defence concluded that in the short-term the Programme was providing a significant uplift in individual outlook, but we need the support of industry as employers, and of industry leaders as patrons, to deliver positive long-term outcomes.

Having been both an employer of LSV graduates and a patron, I encourage all of you here tonight to consider how you might partner with the Defence Force in delivering better outcomes for our youth and their communities.

Tonight we will recognise one employer who has responded to this challenge and who is delivering long-term positive outcomes for our LSV graduates and their families.

In closing, this is a very exciting time for all of us involved Defence, and in delivering the right military capability for New Zealand and our region.

The investment decisions already taken by this Government are evidence of our commitment to ensuring that New Zealand has the Defence Force it needs to deliver value to the Community, Nation, and World.

Further decisions to come on the Future Air Mobility Capability, the Enhanced Maritime Awareness Capability, and a Protected Mobility Capability, and many smaller decisions will continue this momentum.

At the heart of delivering these capabilities are the people of the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force, supported by industry and employers, big and small.

Against this back drop, I am confident that the high ambition set out in the 2019 Defence Capability Plan is achievable and that the pay-off will be great for both the New Zealand Defence Force, industry, and the communities they support.

I congratulate the finalists and winners of tonight’s awards.

Through your excellence and service you have earned the respect of those who put you forward for an award.