Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018

  • Hon Ron Mark

Welcome, and thank you for being here today.

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge the women and men of the New Zealand Defence Force that are here today.

Your government and your country ask a great deal from you. I wish to publically thank you for your dedication, your professionalism and your service.

The coalition Government believes strongly in the critical role Defence plays in supporting national security, national resilience and the well-being of all New Zealanders.  

Defence delivers value to the community, the nation, and the world.

As a Government, we are committed to ensuring that our servicemen and women are equipped and trained to perform the roles New Zealanders expect of them.

Indeed, I personally believe that it is Government’s duty to ensure its service personnel are trained, well equipped and sufficiently resourced to enable them to deploy to the missions we send them on, to successfully complete the tasks we ask of them with distinction and come home safely.

That commitment endures, whether Defence personnel are operating at home, or abroad, working to promote the security on which our Kiwi way of life depends.

Foundation Stones

When I assumed the position of Minister of Defence, I was determined to do two things first.

Get out and about and meet with serving personnel and units, at home and on deployment overseas, to hear their views on the challenges and opportunities facing Defence;

 And establish the foundation stones required to allow the coalition Government to make informed, robust and principles-based decisions about Defence capabilities and deployments.

In this context, the coalition Government made a decision early in this term to review the policy settings as described in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

This was to ensure that Defence policy settings fully reflected the security and foreign policy priorities of this Government. 

The Strategic Defence Policy Statement represents work across parties, and conversations amongst Ministers about the value of Defence, and the risks and opportunities New Zealand faces. 

It also reflects the engagement I have had with our friends and international partners, and from the time I have shared with the personnel of the New Zealand Defence Force.

The purpose of this Policy Statement is to set out the coalition Government’s defence policy objectives, and to outline our strategic direction for Defence.

The Policy Statement also sets the foundation for the review of the Defence Capability Plan, a commitment outlined in the Labour – New Zealand First coalition agreement.

Defence has a significant investment programme ahead, which will shape the Defence Force for decades to come.

The review of the Defence Capability Plan will ensure that these future investments deliver the right military capabilities, in the context of our priorities, and are able to be deployed across the full range of scenarios in which the Defence Force could be required to deploy.

That review will begin shortly, and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

More immediately, you will be aware that options for replacing the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft have been under active consideration by the coalition Government.

Serious progress has been made, and the replacement option for maritime patrol aircraft will be announced shortly.

In the lead up to the Capability Plan review, and other major capability decisions that we face, I requested an independent review of Defence’s procurement policies and practices.

It was important to me that we first looked at whether or not the Defence procurement process was fit for purpose. 

As you all well know, in Opposition I was possibly the most vocal critic of successive Government’s track records on defence procurement.

The independent review of Defence procurement practice, led by Sir Brian Roche, found that Defence’s capability management system now provides decision makers with a strong level of confidence and assurance. 

This certification was absolutely essential to me and to our coalition Government. 

This is a good result, but we need to keep driving continuous improvement to the system.

The reforms within Defence are still relatively new, and strong ongoing leadership is required to embed and sustain them.

We have to get this right – and rest assured, as a Cabinet we will keep a close eye on Defence procurement performance to ensure that high standards are met and maintained. And that projects are delivered on time, to spec within budget and that the platform we end up with when all is done, is the best piece of kit possible.

Together, the Policy Statement and the procurement review are foundation stones for our approach to the Defence portfolio. 

I have been very pleased with the results of both reviews, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to discuss them with you today.

Shifts in New Zealand’s strategic environment

We are an island nation at the bottom of the world.

We enjoy a high level of peace and security.

But that security is intrinsically linked to global and regional stability.

And the one thing that stands out immediately in the Strategic Defence Policy Statement is that since the 2016 Defence White Paper, there have been significant changes in New Zealand’s strategic environment.

Great Power competition is back.

Climate change is having an impact across our immediate neighbourhood, and at home.

 Across geography and domains, including cyber and space, challenges once conceived as “future trends”, have become present realities.
 It is important that our Defence policy not only addresses these challenges, but also aligns with our coalition Government’s values, and our security and foreign policy priorities – particularly the Pacific Reset.

Values and principles

For the coalition Government, values and principles are important.

For the first time, we have laid down the principles that will guide how we make decisions about Defence. The principles make clear our expectations. 

First, the Defence Force must be combat capable, flexible and ready to act in ways that Government directs.

It must be prepared for combat operations.                  This is fundamental.

Defence Force personnel are highly trained professionals.

Among our international partners and friends, our people are one of our most highly regarded capabilities. 

They’re known for their skills, professionalism and cultural aptitude. 

That is something our partners have told me repeatedly, from my engagements in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East. 

Our Defence Force must be equipped and resourced to deliver on the nation’s priorities, in a changing and complex strategic environment.

It must operate at a high level of public trust and confidence. 

Openness and transparency must be central to the way Defence conducts itself and its business.

Defence must embody and promote New Zealand’s values.

And finally, Defence must continue to be seen as credible and trusted partner by those we work with – at home and abroad.

Community, Nation and World

From this foundation of principles, Defence contributes across a broad range of activities.

As you saw in the video a few minutes ago, in the Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018 we highlight the value Defence delivers to our communities, our nation, and to the world.

Defence supports New Zealand’s community and environmental wellbeing and resilience, with examples such as:

 our recent work giving dental treatment to local communities in the Bay of Plenty; responding to events such as the Kaikoura earthquakes or the Christchurch fires;

Search and rescue across our vast ocean areas of responsibility,

And the work we do with young people through the Limited Service Volunteers programme, now on track to double in size to 1600 places, and the Cadet Forces.  

 The Defence Force, its people, and their skills are resident throughout New Zealand communities, and when disaster strikes, they are critical responders.

The economic contribution that flows into the communities that Defence resides within is also important, as are the skills sets of the trained personnel that the Defence Force provides to the wider economy upon their departure from service.

Defence supports national resilience by working alongside other government agencies to safeguard fisheries and biosecurity. 

Together with the Department of Conservation, Defence works to preserve the environment.  

It supports our nation’s border security and our prosperity through secure lines of communication – whether it be air, sea, space or cyber.

We monitor our vast maritime zones of responsibility, support scientific activity in Antarctica and defend our territory.

On the world stage, Defence supports the international rules-based order and contributes to a strong network of relationships with our partners.

We partner with our neighbours in the Pacific and is committed to supporting the Pacific Reset. 

Defence also supports United Nations and coalition operations, and meets our commitments to our allies and partners.

Of course, like the world we live in, these activities are interconnected.

The operations our Defence Force undertakes countering narcotic trafficking on the far side of the globe results in safer, more resilient communities back home.

The work we do to support the New Zealand Police in responding to emergencies, or providing an explosive ordnance disposal capability or Navy dive teams, benefits individual communities as much as the nation.


Our priorities for Defence

Defence’s key priority is the ability to operate in New Zealand and our neighbourhood – a vast maritime domain that stretches from the South Pole to the equator.

To underline this point, I would like to draw your attention to a graphic that perfectly reflects the scale of the challenge we face.

As you can see, it spans two of the world’s great oceans – the Pacific and Southern Oceans.  

And we are a Pacific nation.

We are an integral and important part of the community of Pacific Island nations.

It is vital that we are able to conduct a broad range of operations in the Pacific, from building and supporting regional security architecture, to boots on the ground humanitarian and disaster relief operations,

No one will do this for us.  

Others will come and go, but we need to be ready to lead.

The Defence Force has recently supported Pacific partners with rescues of fishermen, combined fisheries patrols, surveying volcanic activity, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. 

I expect all of this cooperation to continue, and even increase, in light of the challenges our neighbourhood faces. 

I’m proud that the coalition Government’s Strategic Defence Policy Statement makes a significant update to policy by elevating our ability to act in the Pacific to our top set of priorities, placing it at the same level as our own territory. 

This change strongly reinforces the Pacific Reset.

At times New Zealand may need to lead in our neighbourhood, and at times we will act together with our close partners. 

That includes working with and supporting the Pacific island nations themselves.

Looking again at that vast area of maritime responsibility, we must continue meet our obligations in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.  

New Zealand’s interests are also global.

As a small, geographically isolated country, we rely on an interconnected and globalised world – whether it be space-based services for day-to-day use of GPS, our seat at the table in multilateral groups, or safe and open global shipping lanes for our products.

We are clear-eyed about the forces that are putting pressure on the strategic environment and the rules-based order, and what this might mean for the well-being of New Zealanders.

For the last few decades, we have enjoyed the benefits of a relatively secure and stable international system where New Zealand has been able to operate within clear rules and norms allowing us to both prosper and contribute.

Now, we are finding the openness and stability we have benefited from is under pressure.

Pressures like climate change, organised crime and people trafficking, bio-security incursions, and resource competition will intensify around the world, including in our neighbourhood.

These pressures will challenge many countries, especially those with comparatively fewer resources.

We need to play our part by supporting, partnering with, and empowering our friends.

As the proverb goes, “He waka eke noa”.

This is a canoe which we are all in with no exception.

Defence will need to address this range of challenges alongside other agencies in our communities, across the nation, and – together with our partners – in the world.

The Defence Force has important responsibilities near and far. 

It must support New Zealand communities, ensuring the security of our vast maritime areas, work alongside our Pacific Island neighbours, and act to support the rules-based system that

underpins our security and prosperity.


Our friends and partners

We cannot face these challenges alone.

As the Prime Minister has said “Small countries need friends”.

We believe in regular, open, honest and respectful engagement across the global community.

The stability we enjoy at home relies on maintaining strong diplomatic, economic and security links across the world.

Our long-standing friends and partners are of paramount importance to us.

We are proud of New Zealand’s strong international reputation as a valued, credible defence partner.

In our immediate region, Australia is not only a defence ally, but a close friend and confidante.

Partnerships with Five Eyes nations and relationships with NATO and the EU, ASEAN and ADMM-Plus, as well as the Pacific Island Forum and the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting, are vital to enabling the realisation of our interests, the promotion of our values, and the safeguarding of our sovereignty.

Strong partnerships with our friends and neighbours in the Pacific, and more widely in the Asia-Pacific, boost our security and promote shared prosperity.


Independence and self-reliance

We have a proud, independent foreign policy.

We are free-thinkers, and our history demonstrates that we are not afraid to take bold stands, based on our principles.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs said last week when he laid down his challenge to our foreign policy community, we must give strength to our international voice as a self-reliant small state with enduring and consistent values.

Defence is an essential tool that bolsters our international voice, and reinforces our capacity to be self-reliant.

Sometimes we will need to take the lead.

We should be prepared to do so.

and in Defence, we are.


Facing the future

 The Strategic Defence Policy Statement is not just words on a page – it is a call to action to ensure the peace and prosperity of all New Zealanders. 

We are clear eyed about the forces pressuring the international rules based order, and the array of complex disruptors we face in our region and further afield.

We see, acknowledge, and understand our responsibility to prepare the women and men of the Defence Force to face these challenges, while embracing the opportunities in today’s world.

To do so, we need a Defence Force that is combat capable, flexible and ready, embodies New Zealand’s values, and which is trusted at home, and abroad.

The coalition Government is committed to ensuring we have a Defence Force that has the resources and capabilities it needs to do its job, so we can ensure continued security and prosperity in our communities, across the nation, and in the world.

This coalition Government backs the New Zealand Defence Force