What is rapidly emerging as a major equipment crisis with our defence forces got another unveiling at the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee yesterday.

The Committee heard that:

  • It has taken two years to get the Air Force NH90 helicopters into the air after they were bought.
  • A large number of army trucks are too heavy for New Zealand roads and have to have a special dispensations from the New Zealand Transport Authority to travel on the roads.
  • The Navy’s offshore patrol vessels will be unable to go further south than Campbell Island after 2018.
Lt Gen Tim Keating, Defence Minister, Gerry Brownlee and Defence Secretary Helene Quilter at the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee
 The Chief of the Defence Force, Lt General Tim Keating, explained that the helicopters could not be used in Vanuatu because they were not ready for deployment.

Currently they do not fit into C130 transport planes and can only be deployed in the pacific if they are carried on a naval vessel,

But Labour’s David Shearer said the helicopters had been in New Zealand since March 2012.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee was quick to point out that Labour had purchased the machines.

“I think they are a dreadful purchase,” he said.

“I can’t understand why the previous Government bought them.”

And Mr Brownlee also blamed the Labour Government for the inability of the offshore patrol vessels to go beyond Campbell Island.

And pressed by the Committee about the trucks Mr Brownlee said New Zealand had purchased the tail end of a British army procurement.

He said many of the stories about the trucks were “overblown” but they did have a blanket dispensation to travel on New Zealand roads.


But in what is becoming a recurring theme with the Minister, he highlighted the role that Antarctica could play in the forthcoming Defence White Paper.

“We do have to keep in mind that we are a maritime nation.” He said.

“We need to maintain as high a level of maritime capability as we can afford.

“It’s another one of the factors to come into considerations in the defence White paper.

“We have big interests in the Antarctica and we’ve got limited ability to access them.

“We need to think about what we do about that long term and in the relatively short term in my view.”

This is one of the Minister’s first public confirmations that the ability of the Air Force and the Navy to service the Antarctica will be a major theme in the forthcoming white paper which will presumably have to flag some substantial capital purchases both of aircraft and ships to accommodate this policy emphasis.