“Hit and Run” – so who is keeping score of the mounting costs of an inquiry to maintain confidence in our Defence Force?

So what  is  going on   with  the  inquiry    which  the government decided  should be held  into Operation Burnham and related events?

Operation Burnham,  you  will  recall, happened  nearly  nine years  ago – to be  precise, in August 21-22, 2010, in Tirgiran Valley in Afghanistan.  It was  an  action by soldiers  of  NZ’s elite SAS,  operating as a part of the International Security Assistance Force.

Reviews   of what occurred by  two former defence ministers  as well as  by a former  prime minister found that Operation Burnham was conducted with the  highest  level of  professionalism.  Over-riding this, the Wellbeing Government  decided  to hold an  inquiry,  “bearing  in  mind  the need for   the public to have confidence in the NZDF”.

This  followed  the controversy  stirred  up  by the publication  in  “Hit and Run”, a book written  by  Nicky Hager  and  Jon Stephenson,  of  allegations that   six civilians were killed and 15 injured in a raid on villages by the NZ SAS.  Continue reading ““Hit and Run” – so who is keeping score of the mounting costs of an inquiry to maintain confidence in our Defence Force?”

NZ’s Defence relationship with China has been reset to “cosy” – but it mightn’t fit cosily with the Pacific Reset

Defence Minister Ron Mark is back in New Zealand after his  four-day  visit to  China,  clearly excited to be carrying in his bag a “Memorandum of  Arrangement”  concerning  Defence  Co-operation  with  China.

He signed  the  memorandum  with China’s Minister of National Defence, General Wei Fenghe in Beijing.

Mark  says  he  signed the arrangement  after  they reviewed the state of the defence relationship.

It  may  be  news to  many  New  Zealanders that there  is  such a   relationship.  And  given  President  Xi  Jinping  has done more  than  any of  his predecessors to make  China’s armed  forces   world-class, enabling China to  deploy precision  missiles and anti-satellite weapons  that challenge  American  supremacy  in the western  Pacific,  it  could make  defence  ministers  in the rest of the  region nervous. Continue reading “NZ’s Defence relationship with China has been reset to “cosy” – but it mightn’t fit cosily with the Pacific Reset”

Re-equipment decisions are welcomed by the Army and reassuring for NZ’s allies

The Army can scarcely believe its good luck with the announcement from Defence Minister Ron Mark of projects to buy two new operational vehicles.  First up is the US-built Polaris MRZR high mobility utility light vehicle already in widespread military use.  It is a military version of the side-by-side all terrain vehicle (ATV) widely used in NZ.

The Army had expected this decision – but not so quickly, according to our contacts.  It reinforces the view inside Defence that a National government was always keen on deployment but tardy on spending for new equipment – while under a Labour and NZ First coalition,  Defence is doing well on the new equipment front.

It also provides further confirmation for NZ’s allies of the government’s  intention to have modern, well-equipped forces. Continue reading “Re-equipment decisions are welcomed by the Army and reassuring for NZ’s allies”

When Ron Mark is speaking in China, the best form of Defence (it seems) is to refrain from attack

NZ’s  Defence Minister  Ron Mark is  visiting  China for talks  with  Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe and the vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, Air Chief Marshal Xu Qiliang.

Before  he   left   on his  four-day mission  he described China as  a  “key strategic  partner”,  saying he aimed to improve the relationship “and help build our understanding of the country”. He said he would discuss the security implications of climate change, and also discuss peacekeeping and disaster relief efforts.

But even though he is   renowned   for   being politically  feisty on  his home patch, it is unlikely he  would raise  with his Chinese   counterparts such  issues as  the   round of  protests   in  Hong Kong  or  the  fate  of  the   Uighurs. Continue reading “When Ron Mark is speaking in China, the best form of Defence (it seems) is to refrain from attack”

There’s much more to the govt’s Defence Capability Plan than the $1bn purchase of C-130J Hercules

Defence Minister Ron Mark has fleshed out more details from the Defence Capability Plan.   These include the government’s approval of spending $56.8m on the Operational and Regulatory Aviation Compliance project from within internal departmental depreciation funding.

This will ensure military aircraft comply with civil and military air traffic management and identification systems, which are necessary to abide by domestic and global regulatory safety and security requirements.

It aligns with the Civil Aviation Authority NZ’s New Southern Sky programme, which will provide new airspace management and air navigation technologies by introducing new standards.  These follow global demands to realise the safety, environmental, social and economic potential of better airspace management.

A project to deliver an Enhanced Maritime Awareness Capability is also under way. Mark says this complementary capability will consider smaller manned aircraft, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or satellites, for additional maritime surveillance tasks in NZ’s Exclusive Economic Zone and the wider region.  This will free up the P-8As to fly more missions, in the South Pacific and further afield.

Defence is working with more than 20 agencies to identify cost effective recommendations including Police, Customs, Biosecurity New Zealand, DOC and Fisheries.  The government expects to consider initial options later this year. Continue reading “There’s much more to the govt’s Defence Capability Plan than the $1bn purchase of C-130J Hercules”

Defence allies are expected to welcome NZ’s $20bn Defence Capability Plan

Defence Minister Ron Mark will unveil the latest Defence Capability Plan tomorrow.  Our various contacts expect it to be a significant document affirming an on-going positive approach to NZ defence policy involving expenditure of $20bn out to 2030.

The plan is expected to reaffirm the Pacific Reset programme announced by Foreign Minister Winston Peters – and spelled  out again in his recent Pacific foray.

There will be big-ticket items: a replacement for the 50-year-old RNZAF Hercules, a new dedicated southern ocean offshore patrol vessel and a downgrading of the inshore patrol fleet, new IED-proofed armoured vehicles for the Army and a shift into unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for both maritime surveillance and tactical use to complement the vast intelligence-gathering resources of the RNZAF’s new Boeing P-8A Poseidons, due in service from 2023. Continue reading “Defence allies are expected to welcome NZ’s $20bn Defence Capability Plan”

How British military man was left nonplussed by a Jerry in civvies

Back in 2014, the then French President Francois Hollande decided to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day since, he reckoned, few of the veterans might make it to the 75th anniversary this year.

Lieutenant-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, then New Zealand’s Governor-General and now our High Commissioner in London, led a small party of NZ vets  at the  commemoration. They were former sailors and airmen because the NZ Division – back when D-Day loomed – was fighting in Italy.

The day before the anniversary, American, British, Canadian and French paratroopers did a mass drop over Pegasus Bridge, one of the key points in the Normandy landings.

Somehow, Sir Jerry managed to manoeuvre his veterans right into the middle of the drop zone where Prince Charles was observing events.

He and the prince were chatting. The prince was in uniform, Sir Jerry and the vets were casually dressed.

A smartly attired senior British officer observing the scene, asked:

“Who’s that chap talking with HRH.  He’s not even wearing a tie, he’s not properly dressed.

Replied one of our veterans, a salty sea-dog who had been a coxswain on one of the landing craft that hit the beaches on June 6, 1944:  “That’s Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae, our Governor-General. What’s the problem?

Flushed senior British officer retreated, speechless.