Labour won’t commit to Defence Force upgrade

New Zealand has a relatively modest defence force (officially called a “credible minimum force”, used mostly for peace keeping, humanitarian assistance and patrolling our fisheries.

A $20 billion upgrade, planned to span 15 years, has already begun.

Andrew Little has said that a Labour led government wouldn’t commit to this upgrade, citing other things as priorities.

RNZ: Defence Force upgrade in question under Labour govt

Labour leader Andrew Little has refused to commit to following through on the 15-year modernisation plan if he became prime minister, saying spending on housing and education would always take priority.

Last year the government unveiled the multi-billion dollar plan to equip the Defence Force with new aircraft, combat vessels and weaponry, as well as a major upgrade to its land and property.

It would cost $20bn over the next 15 years, and the procurement process for the some of the new equipment is already under way.

Mr Little said the government had not specified where all the money would be spent.

“That’s an area we’d have to look at and see what the commitment is about that $20bn.

“But I have to tell you when it comes down to a choice between doing stuff that’s going to give people a chance to either get a roof over their head, get the kids set up for opportunities for the future, then that’s got to come first,” Mr Little said.

So Labour may fund it’s policies not just from improving surpluses but also potentially by scrapping current spending commitments.

Our defence budget is about 1% of our GDP (the budget was about $3 billion in 2012). We have a substantial reliance on cooperation with other countries, particularly Australia which spends at about 1.9% of GDP.

Largest military spenders (SIPRI Fact Sheet):


More from RNZ:

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the plan was a modest way of making sure the defence force remained fit for purpose, and was able to respond to international threats and disasters back home.

“We don’t live in a benign environment,” Mr Brownlee said.

“This government has moved to put our defence forces in the best position they’ve been in for decades. What Mr Little is doing here I think is not expressing his own views but simply continuing a dialogue that lets him hold hands with the Green Party.”

Scrapping the modernisation plan would be a huge step backwards, Mr Brownlee said.

“It will be very disappointing if that were the price for a Labour-Green government. It would mean that we don’t have the same capacity to work with countries that are like-minded.”

Mr Little was unapologetic for what his priorities would be.

“We want to support our armed forces but there’s no point in saying we’ll have state-of-the-art equipment if the people that are rocking up to be recruited into the armed services don’t have a good education [and] good foundation that enables them to do that.”

No details on how much Labour might cut the Defence Force upgrade budget and what they would scrap.


  1. Missy

     /  March 15, 2017

    Interesting, so if Labour get in, cut NZDF budget essentially running it down how will Little explain it next time there is another big Earthquake when the NZDF potentially won’t have the equipment to provide assistance to those affected?

    Over the last 6 years the biggest deployments of the NZDF have been domestically to assist with Natural Disasters. I would like to see PM Little explain to people isolated by an earthquake that they won’t get any help because he didn’t think upgrading the Defence Force was a priority.

    Also, I would be interested in what happens if he decides to cancel contracts already signed, most will have a penalty clause which in the long run could cost the country more.

  2. artcroft

     /  March 15, 2017

    “No details on how much Labour might cut the Defence Force upgrade budget and what they would scrap.”

    Metiria hasn’t decided yet whether to keep the Defense Force so Little will have to hold his breath and wait to hear just how much the Greens plan to save (correction: plan to redistribute to the indolent)

    • Corky

       /  March 15, 2017

      That’s a fine draw, Arty. Any nut who’s deciding whether a country needs a defence force is just that, a nut. Metiria must never be given the levers of power.

      • Gezza

         /  March 15, 2017

        Metiria might favour passing an Act forbidding anyone from attacking New Zealand?

        • Nelly Smickers

           /  March 15, 2017

          Personally, I wouldn’t be too concerned – Metiria has actually formed her own *Militia*….. they hold regular *battle training* exercises at her home, Almond Castle 😎

        • Pete Kane

           /  March 16, 2017

          Well if she’s facing them on the beaches it may just work. (And she could bring Judith and Paula.)

  3. It is the first responsibility of Governments to ensure the protection of national sovereignty. Does Little Labour want neutrality for NZ? It can not be legislated for as other countries will determine whether of not they accept neutrality in a sovereign state. Labour has been pushing their approach to Defence since Helen destroyed the combat arm of the RNZAF, and National recognised that NZ Defence Force had slipped beyond the “credible minimum” that is the Political speak of the day. No political party in NZ has a policy of providing for the effective defence of NZ and its territories. In the 1930’s as war became inevitable, the politicians blamed the Army for lack of preparedness, and the War Book was produced and a War reserve supply of essential equipment and ammunition etc was set up. Nothing like that exists today! On its own, NZ is Defenceless.

    • Gezza

       /  March 15, 2017

      Seeing you reckon F16s would cost too much, how much do you reckon it would cost us for a dozen SU30s?

      Trumpy’s administration may not mind. Might even be happy to broker a good deal for us through some of their business contacts?

      Some of Thiel’s local entrepreneur techie beneficiaries might be able to up the electronics capabilities cheaply with some leading edge innovative products?

      • Gezza

         /  March 15, 2017

        Scratch that. Multi-role but twin engine. Too expensive for avgas. I’ll see what else they’ve got later on.

      • Nelly Smickers

         /  March 15, 2017

        Wayne was saying that even New Zealand needs be very very wary…..particularly with the growing threat from countries like *ISIS* 😡

      • Your tongue is firmly pressed to your cheek Gezza. Actually we could do with A10s fitted for STOL so we can disperse the in hideyholes in the bush and 2 squadrons of Air Defence Aircraft, lease three US Marine Logistic support helicopter vessels, and outfit two regiments of Medium Artillery, and three Combat Teams of Commando Infantry, and a SAS Regiment. That would give us a decent deterrent and the trained people needed to fight a protracted guerrilla campaign to fight a total peoples war similar to Vietnam and the Yugoslavian Army model. A bit like Lee Kwan Yew’s poisoned prawn concept. (My tongue in cheek response!)

    • Blazer

       /  March 16, 2017

      these days invasions are not necessary regarding countries like NZ.You just buy them,the houses,land ,business’ banks ,its far cheaper and there’s way less ‘…..collateral …damage’.

  4. David

     /  March 15, 2017

    The really big ticket items are things like transport and maritime patrol aircraft. The current fleet is 50 odd years old. If anyone thinks there replacement is optional, and still maintain the illusion of an actual, functional defense force, they are dreaming.

    Without a major investment, NZ will end up with something about the scale of Ireland’s. Ireland have even stopped pretending they have a ‘force’, it’s now a ‘service’. They have outsourced their defense to any passing stranger.

  1. Labour won’t commit to Defence Force upgrade – NZ Conservative Coalition