Money is tight for some things on Ardern’s watch – her Defence Minister has signalled a fiscal assault on military spending

Labour  Defence  Minister  Peeni Henare  has  signalled the  government  is  planning  to  trim   the defence  budget.  He says Covid-19 means the Budget is now much tighter and defence will look different under Labour than it did under its coalition with NZ First.   

This  comes as  Australia, New Zealand’s primary ally,  is pursuing a defence strategy aimed at countering the rise of China, while warning that Australia faces regional challenges on a scale not seen since World War II.  

Australia is  re-equipping  its  armed  forces  with a  10-year  budget  of  $A270m. But  for NZ, the  planned $20bn outlay on  new defence equipment  is the latest Covid-19 casualty, with a range of options to scale it down now before the finance minister.

The major investment in a range of new military hardware and upgrade was announced by former Defence Minister and NZ First MP Ron Mark in 2019 .

Henare says that when he got the job last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern “was quite clear that she wanted Labour, us, to put our fingerprint on defence”, but what that looks like would be influenced by Covid-19. Continue reading “Money is tight for some things on Ardern’s watch – her Defence Minister has signalled a fiscal assault on military spending”

Peters and Mark remind us they still have ministerial work to do as governmental caretakers

Hey – look whose names appeared on the only press statement to be posted on The Beehive website yesterday, two days after Election Day and the first statement to be posted on the site since October 15.

The names are those of Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Defence Minister Ron Mark.

And no, they don’t have to pack their bags just yet despite their trouncing at the polls.  The rules that apply in the immediate period after election day are spelled out on the website of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: 

During the government formation process, the current government remains in office, as it is still the lawful executive authority, with all the powers and responsibilities that go with executive office.

But don’t expect anything radical to happen: Continue reading “Peters and Mark remind us they still have ministerial work to do as governmental caretakers”

How NZ First has made its mark on NZDF by re-equipping our forces for humanitarian as well as military work

In retrospect, the Coalition government’s  record across the Defence portfolio will be seen as the best in decades.  Not since the 1960s has a NZ government spent so much and at the top displayed so much enthusiasm – at least by Defence minister Ron Mark – for the portfolio.

Mark points out there has been the greatest injection of defence funding in decades, with $4.3bn in operating and capital funding allocated in total across the past three Budgets.

The big-ticket items are evident – four new Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrollers at an overall cost of $2.346bn.  Now the Cabinet has agreed to buy five new Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules at a total cost of $1.52bn. Continue reading “How NZ First has made its mark on NZDF by re-equipping our forces for humanitarian as well as military work”

NZ’s Defence assets are out of action or over-burdened – so sorry, we can’t help in the Gulf

Defence  Minister    Ron  Mark  was in  ebullient form, telling  Parliament  this  week  how  much he had   achieved  in defence  since he took over the portfolio  from  National’s  Mark  Mitchell.  And it  does  look  an impressive list.

There’s $5.2bn worth of procurement running right now. P-8s—done. Hercules—getting done. Network-enabled army—done. Protected mobility—done. The King Airs, four of them, now flying at Ōhākea—done. New simulator for the NH90s—done”.

So,  when a   request   comes   for   New Zealand  to help in the protection  of vital shipping lanes in the Middle East, one might   think  the Defence  Minister   would   relish the  opportunity  to   deploy  elements  of  the   NZ   Defence   Force.

But  what  was    Mark’s  response  when  asked to  link  with  Australia  in its decision to commit a ship, a surveillance aircraft and defence personnel in the multilateral effort to keep the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman open and safe for ships to pass through? Continue reading “NZ’s Defence assets are out of action or over-burdened – so sorry, we can’t help in the Gulf”

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”

Pacific Reset has climate change challenges in its sights – but China is a consideration, too

Defence Minister Ron Mark, when restating the government’s Pacific Reset at the multi-national Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore earlier this month, explained a shift in regional and operational imperatives.

He said:

“The Reset is both a vision, and a commitment to lift our ambition as part of the Pacific community. It is about changing our mind-set toaddress the increasingly complex issues in our region. It emphasises both what we are doing in the region, as well as how we operate.  Foremost, it is about genuine partnership and mutual respect.  In many ways the Pacific region is where NZ matters most and can have a more positive impact.  It is our neighbourhood, and where we most certainly act locally.

“Through our Strategic Defence Policy Statement, we raised the priority placed on our Defence Force’s ability to operate in the Pacific to the same level as New Zealand’s territory, the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.”

The Defence Capability Plan fleshed out this policy shift with details of new spending on ships, aircraft and surveillance by satellite and remotely-piloted vehicles. Continue reading “Pacific Reset has climate change challenges in its sights – but China is a consideration, too”

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”