Threats of sea level rise, security implications of climate change

An Otago University research paper warns that the effects of sea level rise will impact most on vulnerable people (that’s likely), while a Defence Assessment “identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time”.

While it is still debatable how much the sea level is likely to rise there is no doubt it has been (slowly) rising over the past half century.

Some still say nothing should be done about climate change, but academics and officials are at least thinking and writiing reports about possible effects and implications.

RNZ:  Sea level rise threatens major NZ infrastructure – report

The burden of sea-level rise will weigh on the most vulnerable unless a new approach is developed and legislated, a new report says.

The paper, written by University of Otago Associate Professor Lisa Ellis, is part of research from the Deep South National Science Challenge. It looks at how New Zealand distributes the risks of sea-level rise.

It proposes an “ethically robust” policy to adapt to the risks of climate change.

Tens of thousands of buildings, infrastructure including airports, railways, and roads, and more than 100,000 residents are at risk of serious loss and damage associated with sea-level rise within the next century.

Dunedin’s airport is low lying, and has already flooded.

Image result for dunedin airport flooded

Flooding on the Taieri Plain, 1980 (airport in lower half of photo)

Rising sea levels and predicted more rain and storms would make this sort of ‘100 year flood’ more common.

South Dunedin in also low lying (it is reclaimed swamp) and has flooded in recent years.

Prof Ellis said sea-level rise was entirely predictable but if New Zealand was proactive about adaptation to climate change, peoples’ wellbeing would not be threatened.

But she said it was possible existing inequality would be exacerbated and the cost of adapting to climate change would rise if the status quo remained.

Her report recommended a government resource about adapting to sea-level rise nationwide, so community resilience did not vary with ratepayers’ ability to pay.

At local level the public should be engaged as early and deeply as possible.

Also from RNZ:  Sea level rise threatens major NZ infrastructure (audio)

Local Government New Zealand: Young and vulnerable shouldn’t shoulder sea-level rise burden

A report released this morning by the Deep South National Science Challenge supports LGNZ’s call for a national framework to deal with sea-level rise, saying that New Zealand’s youngest and most vulnerable are at risk of shouldering the burden if we don’t act now.

“Preliminary findings from our upcoming sea-level rise report shows that billions of dollars of local government roading, water and public transport infrastructure is at risk from as little as half a metre of sea-level rise.  That’s not including private buildings and houses, including potentially billions of dollars in residential real estate,” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“Areas like South Dunedin illustrate just how difficult it is to adapt to climate change without hitting lower socio-economic families in the pocket, so we need a national plan that doesn’t leave anyone behind.”

“Local government stands alongside our communities on the front line in the fight against climate change, but we can’t do it alone – we need central government to set stronger, national rules around risk and liability to property owners in the path of sea-level rise.”

Research from NIWA reveals that sea level rise in New Zealand has increased from 1.7mm a year over the past century, to 4.4mm a year since 1993, which is higher than the global average.  In combination with more severe weather events, storm surges and king tides, sea-level rise presents a huge problem for coastal businesses and residents.

“We need to treat sea-level rise the way we do earthquakes, and that requires a national strategy that gives councils a stronger platform on which to make decisions about building in high-risk areas.”

Ministers of Defence, Climate Change: Defence Assessment on Climate Change and Security Released

Minister of Defence Ron Mark and Minister for Climate Change James Shaw have today released a Defence Assessment on the security implications of climate change.

The Climate Crisis: Defence Readiness and Responsibilities explores the implications of climate change for New Zealand Defence Force operations.

It identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time, and one that is already having adverse impacts both at home and in New Zealand’s neighbourhood.

“This Government is committed to ensuring New Zealand does its part to address climate change,” says Ron Mark.  “This means both contributing to mitigating climate change itself, and working with our international partners to respond to the intensifying impacts climate change will bring.

“Earlier this year the Government’s Strategic Defence Policy Statement recognised climate change will have a big impact on Defence operations, particularly in the Pacific.

“It proceeded to highlight that disruptive weather patterns are causing an increased frequency and intensity of weather extremes such as cyclones, rainfall events, droughts, and flooding from sea level rise. In addition, the state of the Southern Ocean is changing, meaning our current vessels are getting close to the limits of being able to operate safely.

“Therefore it stands to reason that we needed to look deeper in order to better understand the social and security implications of climate change, and what our Defence Force will face when it responds to these weather events.

“The Coalition Government already has a work programme underway to help alleviate the effects of climate change.  This includes re-energised Pacific policy settings, the development of a new climate change law, and the commitment to make 100 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity renewable by 2035,” says James Shaw.

The assessment has been produced by the Ministry of Defence in consultation with the New Zealand Defence Force, other New Zealand agencies, Pacific partners and academics.

https://www.defence.govt.nz/publications/publication/the-climate-crisis-defence-readiness-and-response

There is certain to be a lot of ongoing talk about the possible effects and implications of climate change and sea level rise, but it is yet to be seen whether there will be any significant action.

Shaw, Mitchell question Mark on extended Middle East deployment

In Parliament today Green co-leader James Shaw took Minister of Defence Ron Mark to task after the deployment of New Zealand troops in Iraq and Afghanistan was extended.

4. Hon JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Defence: Is it his intention to continue the deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq beyond 2019?

Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): Ultimately, those decisions are for Cabinet to make. This Government will undertake a strategic reassessment in early 2019. All options will be on the table at that point in time. Those decisions will be made around the strategic situation, our values, our independent foreign policy, and how we think that this Government might make a difference to the lives of the Iraqi people.

Hon James Shaw: Does he agree that continued military involvement of outside forces has actually further destabilised the region and made it easier for terror groups to recruit and has led to an increase in violence rather than a decrease?

Hon RON MARK: No, we don’t. We’re confident that the independent, principles-based decision that Cabinet made yesterday was the right thing to do. I think I would add that for Iraq to become a prosperous nation once again, for its people to enjoy a quality of life that we enjoy, and for them to enjoy the well-being and the support of a good Government such as we enjoy, they need security. Security is paramount to the well-being of the people of Iraq, and I think that is the greatest contribution we’re able to make at this time. But, again, come next year, this Government will reassess the situation.

Hon James Shaw: Does he agree that if New Zealand were to play a role beyond 2019, then the New Zealand public would rather it be focused on building schools and roads and hospitals rather than a seemingly never-ending military engagement?

Hon RON MARK: Mr Speaker, we understand that that is the view of some people, and we would share those views that ultimately that is where we would like Iraq to be. Right now the most important thing is to guarantee security. Right now where we can make a strong contribution, along with our Australian partners, is to improve the quality of the security forces there and thereby lend greater security. For NGOs to be able to deliver to those people, they need security. We’ve seen examples in Sudan where the wonderful efforts of NGOs have been interdicted by the lack of security. I would also point out that in Afghanistan alone this Government over the years since 2001 has put in over $100 million in aid. There’s another $2 million to the UN Development Programme and there is about $3.5 million going into the UN Development Programme around technical assistance for de-mining support.

Hon James Shaw: Well, would he agree that the money that we spend on these military deployments would be better spent on humanitarian aid and reconstruction?

Hon RON MARK: I guess a quick add-up of the cost of all of the deployments that the Government has just announced comes to a grand total of about $31.4 million, bearing in mind that a couple of those deployments are for two years, not one year. Ultimately, the Government will in time—and I think next year—look at how we can make a contribution. It may well be that there may not be a military contribution; the focus may be on humanitarian assistance. Of course we’d like to build hospitals. Of course we’d like to help build schools. Of course we’d like to help re-establish the infrastructure. Iraq, in particular, is looking at a $100 billion bill for reconstruction, but $31.4 million is not going to build a new school, it’s not going to build a new hospital, and it’s not going to rebuild the infrastructure. It can make a substantive difference to the NGOs who are delivering that sort of support and thereby enhancing security.


National’s defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell also questioned Ron Mark.

Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney): Has he seen the quote “Does he not realise that he sent our brave New Zealand soldiers to Iraq on a fool’s errand, and that training the Iraqi Army to stand and fight is literally Mission: Impossible?”, and does he agree with it?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can the member read the question, please? Read it again.

8. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Defence: Has he seen the quote “Does he not realise that he sent our brave New Zealand soldiers to Iraq on a fool’s errand, and the training the Iraqi Army to stand and fight is literally Mission: Impossible?”; if so, does he agree with it?

Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): Yes, I recognise that quote.

SPEAKER: No. The member will finish answering the question.

Hon RON MARK: Yes, I recognise that quote, and on the information I had at the time, I still stand by that statement.

Hon Mark Mitchell: How does the Minister reconcile his statement on Morning Report today that there was never any attempt by the previous Government to work across parties, when New Zealand First declined a briefing, an invitation, to visit troops in Iraq with Gerry Brownlee, Andrew Little, and myself in 2016?

Hon RON MARK: I have never received an invitation from Mr Brownlee or from that member on any visit, and, in fact, that member can enlighten people about the conversation that he and I had on the telephone where that member apologised for not inviting me.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister as to whether it’s a fact that, contrary to being asked, with respect to consultation, the troops were already there before the invitation was sent to the New Zealand First Party in the first place?

SPEAKER: Order! That is not something the current Minister has responsibility for.

Hon Mark Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There appears to be some confusion. The Minister stood up and said that he’d never personally received an invitation—and I was very clear about the fact that the invitation went to New Zealand First—and the Deputy Prime Minister then stood up and contradicted him and said that we did receive an invitation. Which is correct?

SPEAKER: You’re not serious? Stand up and ask a supplementary, if the member wants to.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why didn’t the Minister consult with or brief either the New Zealand National Party or the ACT Party before a decision was made to deploy our New Zealand Defence Force men and women into theatres of war?

Hon RON MARK: On numerous occasions, I have taken National Party representatives with me. In fact, I took Mr Simon O’Connor into Iraq and into Afghanistan. In those conversations that we had on that trip, it became very apparent and very clear to me what the National Party’s view was on the deployment. In fact, one would have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to know that the National Party supported a continuation of that deployment, unless, of course, it’s just now changed its mind.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Has the Minister consulted with the ACT Party?

Hon RON MARK: No, I have not had consultation, but I would say this to that member also, and I would say it to Mr Seymour: the way that we have operated my office is that we make the door wide open. In fact, the member has been into my office for a briefing.

Hon RON MARK: We will always keep the door open, and I am fully ready, at any time, Mr Seymour, to give a full background briefing. Members of the National Party sat in on the bilateral conversations with the Prime Minister of Iraq. They sat in on the bilaterals with the Minister of Defence of Iraq and visited Afghanistan and sat in on the bilaterals with the NATO ambassador to Afghanistan. A member of the National Party has participated at all levels of those conversations and has made it very clear to me that the National Party support it. To Mr Seymour: the door’s open. I apologise for not getting round to you. I would have done that after the announcement.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Mr Speaker, can I just seek some guidance from you, because—

SPEAKER: No, you can’t. The member can ask a supplementary question or, if he has a real point of order, he can do it, but if he trifles with me again, he’ll be losing his supplementary.

Hon Mark Mitchell: It is a point of order, because—

SPEAKER: Well, the way the member does it is stand up and say, “Point of Order!”

Hon Mark Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point of order is simply this: the Minister is talking about taking other members away on trips. That’s not the question. The question was around consultation with Opposition parties before decisions are made on deploying New Zealand Defence Force men and women.

SPEAKER: Between the last two supplementaries, that has been very clearly answered.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why hasn’t he applied his own high standards to himself in terms of a cross-party consultation and consensus in an MMP environment?

Hon RON MARK: Right at the outset of being sworn in as Minister, I think I made it very, very clear that I sought, for the benefit of the men and women in uniform, to gain as wide a cross-party consensus on defence matters as we possibly can. It is for that reason that we have gone out of our way to invite National Party representatives to attend briefings. It’s for that reason that I have never refused a request from the Hon Paula Bennett. I think there are about two or three National Party members who’ve sought permission to go on to military bases and talk with Defence Force personnel, unlike what happened to me when I was specifically blocked by the National Government at the time.

Iraq, Afghanistan ‘peacekeeping’ and the realities of international ‘leadership’

Jacinda Ardern has been promoted (or has promoted herself) as one of a radical new breed of young progressive wanting to lead the world in a new direction. But the realities for a small distant nation is that the leader largely has to follow along with allies, even in war situations.

So despite in Opposition promising to pull the troops out the Government has just announced an extension of New Zealand’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Greens remain opposed.

Official announcement: New Zealand to extend NZDF deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and 3 peacekeeping missions

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, and Defence Minister Ron Mark have announced an extension of the New Zealand Defence Force military training deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a renewal of three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa.

“The decision to deploy defence force personnel overseas is one of the hardest for any government to take, especially when these deployments are to challenging and dangerous environments,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The Government has weighed a number of factors, including carefully considering the risks to our servicemen and women based on advice from the New Zealand Defence Force. The decisions themselves were taken following careful Cabinet deliberations.”

The Iraq deployment will be extended until June 2019, and the Afghanistan deployment will be extended until September 2019.  This allows New Zealand to fulfil its current commitment to both missions.

In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan the Government will be using the coming year to consider all options for New Zealand’s future contributions.

The three peacekeeping missions are to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in the Golan Heights and Lebanon and the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.

“The Government has decided to continue with our current commitments to three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa, where we have an established presence and proven track record,” Winston Peters said.

A quite length explanation of all the deployments and their histories then followed.

This would normally be seen as a pragmatic decision with New Zealand being seen to contributing to international peacekeeping obligations, which it is. But this is a reversal of Labour’s position. National found themselves in a similar position.

Labour press release (June 2016): Iraq mission extension case not made

The Prime Minister has not made the case for extending the Iraq deployment another 18 months nor the expansion of their mission, says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.

“Labour originally opposed the deployment because the Iraqi Army’s track record was poor, even after years of training by the American and other armies. Having visited Camp Taji, my view on this has not changed.

“It was always obvious that the Iraq deployment would not be complete within the two years originally set for the mission, and the Prime Minister has not been open with the public about the demands being made on our troops by Coalition allies.

“Today in his post cabinet briefing Key could not even confirm the troops would be home in 18 months. He has not been straight with New Zealanders, nor has he made the case for mission creep. He owes it New Zealanders to explain why we’re committing our forces to an ongoing volatile theatre of war.

The Government has announced an extension to the two-year deployment, keeping up to 143 personnel in Iraq for an extra 18 months.

John Key admits it’s a change from the initial promise, but said there’s still work to do. He said the other options are to “do nothing”, or do “something that in hindsight may be more dangerous”.

Labour leader Andrew Little…

“We can be a good global citizen by looking after the civilians who are displaced. What we don’t want to be is caught up in a conflict that goes way out of control.”

“The fact that he’s now completely indefinite about how long we might be there – we could be there for a long, long time. The real threat then is of civil war and who knows where that will go.”

Green co-leader James Shaw…

…said we shouldn’t have our military in Iraq at all

“This is mission creep, and it’s extremely dangerous. He’s broken a promise about how long we were going to be there in the first place, it could easily get extended again, both in terms of the length of time we’re over there and also in terms of the scope of the mission.’

“Our good global citizenship role would be much better deployed as part of the humanitarian effort, rather than part of the military effort. We’ve got a lot more skill in humanitarian aid.”

SBS News/Reuters (November 2017 just after Ardern became Prime Minister): NZ could pull out of Iraq deployment

Australia may lose New Zealand as a partner training Iraqi security forces to fight Islamic State militants next year.

Ms Ardern said her government will review NZ’s commitment of just under 150 military personnel in November next year.

“We will look again at the circumstances when that mandate comes up again,” she told reporters at Sydney airport before her departure.

“It’s a complex conflict and things could change dramatically between now and then.”

Former NZ Labour leader Andrew Little, who Ms Ardern replaced, has previously cast doubt on the benefits the country’s role in Iraq and had vowed to bring the troops home.

Incline (February 2018): Groundhog Day for New Zealand’s Iraq Deployment?

National’s decision might have been broadly predictable, but the same cannot be said for Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led coalition. What the Prime Minister and her Cabinet colleagues choose to do on Iraq presents a series of challenges in the weighing of international and domestic expectations.

For New Zealand First, which holds both the Defence and Foreign Affairs portfolios, the shift in position is a slightly easier one. Ron Mark prides himself on his commitment to a Defence Force that is ready to undertake missions in difficult conflict zones. At a time when his portfolio is not among the government’s top spending priorities, he needs a win for his view of the Defence Force. That Mr. Mark has been in Iraq, and has reported that the New Zealanders are doing “vital tasks” in the national interest, says all we need to know about his position on the issue.

His New Zealand First boss also seems a very likely supporter of extension. As Foreign Minister, Peters will be keenly aware of Australia’s interest in seeing New Zealand commit to a further six months and more.

We can be certain that if Jacinda Ardern announces that New Zealand will extend its mission she will not use the “price of the club” argument which landed John Key in political hot water. Explaining New Zealand’s involvement as a consequence of its five eyes connections would be exactly the message that would fire up opposition from the Greens and the Labour left.

…the Iraq decision is a more difficult test. Unlike the TPP, where significant parts of New Zealand’s business community have been strong supporters, there is no comparable domestic constituency for the Iraq deployment.

This raises an obvious challenge for the government if it does choose to extend. How does it show this choice is consistent with an independent foreign policy? Labour may think it owns that concept by virtue of its nuclear free push in the 1980s. Will Ardern be tempted to repeat the Key-English argument that New Zealand has made its own (i.e. “independent”) choice to work with traditional partners in Iraq? That will hardly convince many of the people who brought her to office.

Newshub (yesterday): Jacinda Ardern’s U-turn on pulling troops out of Iraq

The Labour-led Government is extending New Zealand’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan despite promising in Opposition to pull troops out.

The Prime Minister is refusing to comment on whether New Zealand’s elite soldiers, the SAS, will or have joined them.

This is another example of Labour leaning towards NZ First preferences, with Greens opposed. The Green Party doesen’t seem to have put out an official statement, but…

In the context of the ‘War of Terror’ & ‘peace in the Mid East’, one thing we know is more foreign military presence is not working, has never worked, & has made things far worse. Bring on the sustainable, non-military led humanitarian, conservation, restoration focus.

Stop spending Mills$ joining failed military campaigns that only help weapons manufacturing nations/corporates. Instead invest in helping victims access medicine, rebuild schools, roads…And flex our diplomatic muscle to tell everyone we won’t stand for them profiting from war.

She has a point – Iraq and Aghanistan seem to be bottomless pits and graveyards when it comes to military involvement, and perhaps futile: Seventeen years after September 11, al-Qaeda may be stronger than ever

In the days after September 11, 2001, the United States set out to destroy al-Qaeda. US President George W Bush vowed to “starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest.”

Seventeen years later, al-Qaeda may be stronger than ever. Far from vanquishing the extremist group and its associated “franchises,” critics say, US policies in the Middle East appear to have encouraged its spread.

New Zealand is now extending support of US policie.

What US officials didn’t grasp, said Rita Katz, director of the Site Intelligence Group, in a recent phone interview, is that al-Qaeda is more than a group of individuals. “It’s an idea, and an idea cannot be destroyed using sophisticated weapons and killing leaders and bombing training camps,” she said.

The group has amassed the largest fighting force in its existence.

It is a dilemma. Pacifism would also not have contained Al Qaeda nor ISIS. But a seventeen year military approach hasn’t solved Middle East problems either.

Ardern, Peters and their Government are doing their bit, but it’s very debatable whether that is going to help anything other than their standing in the US and it’s military industrial complex.

China response to Defence Policy Statement criticisms

A Strategic Defence Policy Statement released on Friday by Minister of Defence Ron Mark stated the threat it believes China poses to the international community.China has responded.

Stuff: China fires back at NZ, calls remarks on South China Sea and Pacific politics wrong

Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have often been careful not to specifically call out the country when talking about international tensions in the South China Sea, or over development spending in the Pacific.

But the defence statement explicitly listed what the Government saw as potential threats posed by China.

Mark’s paper said “both domestically and as a basis for international engagement, China holds views on human rights and freedom of information that stand in contrast to those that prevail in New Zealand”.

It went on to say “not all major powers’ aspirations can be shaped in accordance with the rules-based order, in the way that had been hoped until recently”.

On Friday, Mark said the statement would come as no surprise to China.

But on Monday, Peters said the Chinese Government had made clear its concern over the paper, both through its ambassador in Wellington and New Zealand’s ambassador in Beijing, but played down the significance of this.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had “lodged stern representations with New Zealand on the wrong remarks it has made on China”.

“We urge New Zealand to view the relevant issue in an objective way, correct its wrong words and deeds and contribute more to the mutual trust and cooperation between our two countries,” she said.

The Global Times, one of the official newspapers of the Communist Party of China, says similar: Australia, New Zealand should avoid misrepresenting China’s role

While acknowledging China’s contributions to the international order, New Zealand accused China of having not “consistently adopted the governance and values championed by the order’s traditional leaders” in its Strategic Defense Policy Statement 2018. It also alleged that “China’s more confident assertion” of interests in Asia has “raised tensions” with neighboring countries.

The Washington-led international policy pattern has gradually turned out to be inadaptable to today’s development. Worse still, Washington, unwilling to accept China’s rise, has been working to drive a wedge between China and Asia-Pacific countries, further destabilizing the region. As a result, China has been seeking every opportunity to cooperate with regional countries for fairer orders.

It would be a strategic mistake if the security pact is clinched to target China. To begin with, China has risen to the second largest economy in the world. Its economic might is being gradually transformed into a locomotive for regional cooperation.

A hint of a warning in trade, which is always a factor in international relations. New Zealand has a growing reliance on trade with China.

More importantly, China’s role in the South Pacific is actually welcomed by a majority of countries there. China has emerged as a major donor in the South Pacific, including in Forum countries Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, instilling momentum to the region’s development. China provided $1.8 billion in aid and loans to South Pacific nations between 2006 and 2016, according to media reports.

That’s a lot of aid, far more than New Zealand (or Australia) could give.

How to share the developmental dividends of China’s rise is a subject that the international community should ponder on. China’s emergence is an irreversible trend, and any attempt to contain the country’s growth runs contrary to the trend of the times.

Instead of being overly cautious about China’s rise, Australia and New Zealand should avoid misleading the region on China’s role, and other regional countries should be clear about the consequences of being misled. The region will only suffer more losses from containing China.

Dealing with China is a tricky balance.

Ardern and peters have to deal with diplomacy and consider trade far more than Mark who is more removed from the overall realities of international relationships in his defence role.

Q&A – Ron Mark and the review of NZ defence policy

A new review of NZ’s defence policy says Great Power competition is back & turbulent times could be ahead. So what kind of Defence Force does NZ need? interviews today 9am TVNZ1

Minister of Defence: Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018 Launched

The Policy Statement updates New Zealand’s strategic Defence policy settings to reflect the Coalition Government’s foreign policy and national security priorities.

The Policy Statement emphasises:

  • The importance of the Defence Force delivering value for New Zealand’s communities
  • New Zealand’s responsibilities as a Pacific nation
  • Addressing the impacts of climate change and protecting the natural environment
  • Maintaining the international rules-based order which is crucial to safeguarding and promoting New Zealand’s interests and wellbeing
  • The importance of contributing to New Zealand’s key security partnerships

“The Policy Statement sets out a challenging strategic environment for New Zealand, in which the international rules-based order is coming under pressure from a range of forces.  The effects of these forces are playing out across the globe, including in New Zealand’s neighbourhood, from Antarctica to the South Pacific.

“As a small state, New Zealand relies on the international rules-based order and multilateral approaches – alongside its international partnerships – to protect its interests and amplify its ability to be a positive global contributor.

“The Defence Force is a key tool with which the Government can help nations and communities.  Whether it be through responding to natural disasters, helping protect fisheries and natural resources, or at the sharper end, contributing to coalition and peace support operations.

“We will now turn our attention to reviewing the Defence Capability Plan.  This will build on the Strategic Policy Statement 2018 and determine the capabilities that the Defence Force will require to give effect to New Zealand’s updated defence policy settings. That review will be completed by the end of 2018,” says Ron Mark.

https://defence.govt.nz/publications/publication/strategic-defence-policy-statement-2018

Newsroom: Bold defence plan comes at a cost

Who would have thought such a small document could make such a big statement?

At a relatively slender 39 pages, the newly-released Strategic Defence Policy Statement packs a significant punch pound-for-pound in outlining the threats to New Zealand and the world.

It paints a bleak picture of “compounding challenges of a scope and magnitude not previously seen in our neighbourhood”.

Coalition politics are a very real consideration, with the Greens and (to a lesser extent) Labour historically critical of spending on defence instead of priorities closer to home.

That may explain the heavy emphasis on security issues related to climate change and the Pacific, providing a framework which the two left-wing parties may find more agreeable.

But that in itself raises the question of how much New Zealand can do: focusing more heavily on the Pacific while maintaining deployments in the Middle East and elsewhere will stretch the NZDF.

Whether it is stretched to breaking point may depend on how successfully Mark can argue his corner in future.

Mark gets a chance to argue his case to the public this morning on Q&A.

“New Zealanders want to know that Kiwis, when they’re placed in danger, have the right equipment to come home safely. That’s what NZers focus on, and I’m proud of them. I’m proud of this government for being bold enough”.

“When you have timidity in the ranks of cabinet, such as we’ve seen in the last nine years, you end up kicking a can down the road, and then aircraft are either grounded or, at worse, they fall out of the sky”.

Fortunately for Mark there are no Green MPs in Cabinet.

 

Budget “a ringing endorsement of the Defence Force from the Coalition Government”

It is notable that this refers to ‘Coalition Government’ – Greens are not a part of the coalition. While NZ First and Grant Robertson have tried to talk up the Defence budget it has been described as “money for a frigate upgrade cost overrun, some joint training and another 800 LSV trainees”.

Minister of Defence Ron Mark talked up the budget allocation for the Defence Force.

Enhancing Defence Force capability

New Zealand’s Defence Force can continue making meaningful contributions to global security and peacekeeping efforts, and respond effectively to events like natural disasters, as a result of Budget 2018 funding, says Defence Minister Ron Mark.

Budget 2018 provides a $367.7 million operating funding boost to the Defence and Veterans portfolios over the next four years, underpinned by an extra $324.1 million for the New Zealand Defence Forces’ operating budget. In addition, Budget 2018 provides $42.3 million in new capital funding for modernisation.

“The extra funding is going to go a long way towards helping the Defence Force meet increasing demand across a range of tasks,” Ron Mark says.

“The funding announced today is also a huge win for conservation, the environment and fisheries protection.

Alongside the increase of $324.1 million in the Defence Force operating budget, Budget 2018 also sees:

  • $41.3 million additional capital investment for the first tranche of investment under the Defence Estate Regeneration Programme Plan
  • an additional $22.6 million operating funding over the next four years and $1.0 million capital funding for the Defence Force to deliver the enhanced Limited Service Volunteer programme (supported by a related investment of $4.2 million over the next four years for the Ministry of Social Development to administer the programme)
  • as announced earlier, $1.1 million in grants to the Royal New Zealand Returned & Services Association (RSA) and No Duff Charitable Trust over the next four years to support the services they provide to veterans – $250,000 for the RSA and $25,000 for No Duff Charitable Trust annually (This initiative was announced before Budget Day.)
  • $6.3 million in 2018/19 for the repatriation of the remains of service personnel and their dependents for those buried overseas since 1955
  • $13.6 million over the next four years set aside for new capabilities.

“This is a ringing endorsement of the Defence Force from the Coalition Government. It recognises the value it provides New Zealand and its meaningful contributions to peace and security around the world,” says Ron Mark.

Defence got a few mentions in the budget speeches in parliament on Thursday.

Grant Robertson:

New Zealand’s Defence Force will be able to make more meaningful contributions to global security and peacekeeping, and better respond to natural disasters, with a $345 million operating funding boost to the Defence and Veterans portfolios over the next four years, including, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development, funding to expand the Limited Service Volunteer programme for young people under 25.

It didn’t rate a mention from Simon Bridges

Winston Peters:

Can I just say it was clear as daylight that the National Party had been hiding the costing—$20 billion, for example, when it comes to the Defence Force, was a fiscal risk. It wasn’t even budgeted for. Then he had a frigate that was overrun by, and costing, $148 million, and they kept it quiet from the public from July last year all the way to election day.

We’ve got, for example, the things that also matter in defence. That’s a substantial boost in a critical area, which means that our defence capacity in the Pacific—so desperately needed by so many Pacific Islands and by the Pacific itself—can now show up responsibly.

That’s it.

However on his ‘National Security’ blog Simon Ewing Jarvie is quite scathing.

Politics, Defence & Budget 2018

The political fate of New Zealand’s Defence rests in two simple questions. The first is how important defence is in the scheme of the current government’s political priorities and the second is how much influence the current Defence Minister has.

Take a look at past behaviour of Government parties as an indicator of the future. Labour’s choices have often seen a reduction in combat capability – think air combat force for example. NZ First talks tough but, when in coalition with National, vetoed the acquisition of the second two ANZAC frigates. At least the Greens are up front in their disarmament desires.

It is clear that Defence is not a high priority for this Government. That’s concerning because there are some important decisions to be made about platform replacement. Good ministers can get money for their portfolios. Putting aside this year’s abysmal budget result, how is Ron Mark placed in the machinery of Government?

First, the general view is that Ron, Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson aren’t exactly drinking buddies so there’s not likely to be any favours done for Defence in that department. The relationship between NZ First and Greens is toxic at the best of times and Defence is right in the middle of that.

I can’t see Ron Mark and Golriz Ghahraman (Green’s Defence Spokesperson) nutting out an accord over a herbal tea anytime soon.

So that brings it back to how Ron is able to leverage NZ First’s support for the Government. Unfortunately, Ron Mark’s star, within his own party, appears to be waning. Were it not, Peters wouldn’t have stood back and let Fletcher Tabuteau roll Mark as Deputy Leader. NZ First got heaps of concessions out of Labour in Budget 2018 but they weren’t going to die in a ditch for Ron Mark or Defence. It’s unlikely that anything is going to change there.

For all the bold election campaign statements by NZ First, Ron Mark got money for a frigate upgrade cost overrun, some joint training and another 800 LSV trainees.

He highlights a lowlight:

$148 million over four years is listed as a new initiative. It is actually the value of the cost overrun for the ANZAC frigate upgrade so it’s not generating any capability that wasn’t already signed up to.

Not only is this not new spending, it’s actually caused a degradation in other Defence capability development. That’s because as part of their ‘kiss and make up’ exercise, the MOD agreed to reduce the specs on the new littoral operations vessel from a purpose-built military specification to a commercially available hydrographic and dive support vessel to ‘save’ a similar amount of money. In December, Mark attacked the previous Government over the frigates saying “it means the lives of men and women were now being compromised”. How can he possibly reconcile that with sending sailors into threat zones in a vessel not designed for self-defence and survivability? You can’t paint it grey and call it a warship.

Grey lipstick on a war pig.

The bulk of the money allocated for acquisition to MOD is for the construction of the new maritime sustainment vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa. Apart from a few legacy projects, there is nothing for the big ticket items listed in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

Finally, but very important, is personnel costs. These are currently about $1b of the cost of running defence. Is there, in effect, a pay freeze? Or, will the operating funds have to be used to retain ‘he tangata’. NZ First campaigned on this and has delivered nothing.

Don’t forget, also, about the ‘drag’ that capital charge and depreciation is having on NZDF’s funds.

 

 

 

 

 

New deputy predicted for NZ First

There has never been any doubt who will lead NZ First while Winston Peters remains an MP, but the deputy spot is less secure. In 2015 Ron Mark got the numbers to oust Tracey Martin, but it looks like the knives are out for Mark, with the position up for a caucus vote next week.

Martin and Shane Jones appear to be too busy to consider going for it, so it looks like the way is open to Fletcher Tabuteau to take on some more responsibility.

Stuff: NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark looks set to be rolled at caucus on Tuesday

They say what goes around comes around and in Ron Mark’s case he’ll be hoping that’s not the case.

Mark rose to be NZ First’s deputy leader in 2015 after he challenged Tracey Martin and got enough support in the caucus to roll her.

But the party’s deputy leadership is up for grabs again on Tuesday and it’s understood the job is NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau’s – if he wants it.

Tabuteau was fourth on the NZ First list last election, behind Peters, Mark and Martin (Jones was 8th).

Mark need not worry about Martin, whose popularity amongst colleagues exceeds his, as it’s understood she’s not interested in the job due to her heavy ministerial workload.

NZ First new-comer but old-timer in terms of political experience, Shane Jones, has long been touted to take over the leadership from Winston Peters if he ever decided to throw it all in and head to Whananaki to retire.

But he’s not interested in the job either – he says he’s got one billion trees to plant and a $1 billion regional economic fund to spend, which would keep him far too busy for anything else.

So it looks like a contest between Mark and Tabuteau, if Mark doesn’t read the writing on the wall and say he’s too busy being a minister.

While he (Jones) says it’s not a “priority” for him to be deputy leader and in the short term he has a “hell of a role” he possibly also doesn’t see the deputy job as any sort of assumed stepping stone to the leadership.

 

Peters reconfirmed leader, NZ First deputy going to a vote

Winston Peters has been reconfirmed as NZ First leader – no one should be surprised by that – but the party’s MPs will vote for a deputy next week. Ron Mark is currently the deputy.

NZH:  NZ First leader Winston Peters re-elected, deputy vote next week

NZ First has joined the fray of leadership elections, although the only vote in its caucus will be for deputy leader.

In a statement, NZ First said leader Winston Peters had been confirmed as the party’s leader at caucus.

“His sole nomination was carried with acclaim.”

Shane Jones, often tipped as a successor to Peters, would not comment but is unlikely to contest it.

They don’t say why Jones is unlikely to contest.

None of the MPs would comment – but possible contenders include current deputy Ron Mark, Tracey Martin and Fletcher Tabuteau.

Martin was deputy from 2011 to 2015 when caucus elected Ron Mark instead.

With both Peters and Mark now ministers with jobs that involve overseas travel (Foreign Affairs and Defence) it would make sense to have a more New Zealand based deputy. I don’t think Mark is particularly popular either.

Why is Winston Peters Foreign Minister?

  asks: Why is Winston Peters Foreign Minister?

I’m wondering this today because one of the books I read over the break talks about proportional representation in Germany, and how the system gave disproportional power to the third party (the FDP).

And the FDP exercised this by making their leader the Foreign Minister when they went into governing coalitions. And when the FDP declined and the German Greens became the kingmakers, their leader Joschka Fischer became the foreign Minister.

And this is Peters’ second round in the same position and he’s chosen the same portfolio. So that seems to be a thing. But Foreign Minister seems like a bad portfolio to have when you’re leader of a minority party in government!

You’re out of the country almost all of the time. It’s hard to stay in the loop, either with your own party or broader political developments. It’s the job Prime Ministers traditionally give to valuable but ambitious rivals or caucus trouble-makers to keep them out of mischief.

And its hard to deliver on retail politics or distribute pork from that position. Peters, like McCully before him will doubtless find a way, but certainly nothing as lavish as Shane Jones will deliver with his infrastructure fund.

It is a VERY prestigious post, though. You get to meet kings and queens and drive through Beijing in a motorcade! Do (some) third parties favour the Foreign Ministry because it’s the most prestigious position in government that a major party will concede?

Or is there some other political advantage to the position I don’t know about?

One possibility is that it is part of Winston’s succession plan.

He gets to hold the top position that NZ First has gets to hob nob with governments and royalty around the world, and gives the rest of the NZ First MPs some space to work out how to work together without him hovering over them all the time.

When he is out of the country media are forced to go to a different NZ First MP for comment on party related issues.

Shane Jones being given five ministerial positions including the regional pork distributor suggests he is Winston’s favoured successor. His portfolios:

  • Minister of Forestry
  • Minister for Infrastructure
  • Minister for Regional Economic Development
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Transport

That covers key NZ First policies and gives him an influence in Finance. And is too much work for Peters, especially if he is considering retirement by the end of this term.

Deputy Ron Mark has been given relatively lightweight and inconsequential (for NZ First) portfolios:

  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister for Veterans

That doesn’t look like leader-in-waiting level responsibilities – but it gives Mark more opportunity to campaign and lobby to take over the party should Peters step down.

Another reason for Foreign Affairs for Peters could be Labour’s doing. He is (on paper at least) our #2 politician and deputy Prime Minister, so he will probably get to act as the big cheese occasionally and briefly, but most of the time he is out of the country and out of sight, so gives him little chance to grandstand over Jacinda Ardern.

Foreign Affairs is also a job Peters has done before so knows the ropes, so it will be easier for him than taking on a major domestic workload that he would first need to familiarise himself with.

And it could be that Peters just likes Foreign Affairs, and wanted a job he would enjoy.

Black mark for breaching medal protocols

New Minister of Defence Ron Mark is seeking advice after it has been claimed he is breaching military medal wearing protocols.

NZH:  Medals off Mark for new defence minister – says he will ‘seek advice’ after questions raised

New defence minister Ron Mark has been wearing military medals in a way which puts his foreign service above that which he performed for New Zealand.

The way Mark has his medals arrayed across his chest is in breach of NZ Defence Force protocols and not permitted for soldiers over whom he holds sway.

And it has led to questions about whether he is even entitled to wear the four medals awarded while in the service of the Sultan of Oman in the Middle East.

Mark would not answer those questions yesterday, but provided a statement in which he said: “I have the greatest respect for military service, and the way in which it is recognised. I am proud of the people I served alongside in both the New Zealand and Omani Defence Forces.

“I have sought advice from the Honours Unit on the wearing of the medals I was awarded, and will take that advice when it’s received.”

It is an embarrassment for Mark, having worn his medals in front of senior officers who knew he was breaching the standards expected of all New Zealand military personnel.

Mark wore his medals when being sworn in as defence minister, and again at the opening of Parliament – and also on Sunday at a service for Armistice Day in Wellington.

At that event, he was present with the Chief of the Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating and among troops at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

The wearing of medals from a foreign country are strictly governed, with sets of rules for NZDF personnel and all New Zealand citizens.

Anyone wanting to wear medals from a country which does not have the Queen as head of state needs the permission of the Governor-General.

If Mark did have permission – which medals’ experts believe is unlikely – he has been caught out by the way he wore them.

The rules around wearing medals dictate that those earned in the service of New Zealand must be worn first.

Mark wears his medals from service in Oman first, giving them a pre-eminent position over his New Zealand medals.

NZ Medals Ltd owner Aubrey Bairstow – an expert in constructing medal boards – said: “His Oman medals must be after his New Zealand medals.”

Bairstow constantly deals with military veterans and said many were upset by the way the medals had been displayed.

This seems to be something Mark should have known about, or should have properly clarified before or or as soon as becoming Minister of Defence. Actually he should have got it right before then.