Dr Wayne Mapp
MP North Shore
National Spokesperson on Defence
Address to Defence Seminar:
NZ Defence Directions – Post 2002
2002 – NZ’s Defence Force
Old Government House, University of Auckland
9.00am Saturday 25 November 2000
I. OUR REGION
The last twelve months have instilled deep concerns about the direction New Zealand is heading. Where are we going as a
This is as true of defence as in any other area. Labour’s defence decisions point to a new form of disconnection. There
is lavish praise for the efforts of our forces in East Timor, and Labour knows there is widespread and deep support for
these efforts. However, under the guise of these multilateral efforts, Labour is attempting to disconnect New Zealand
from wider responsibilities in the region.
How else does it explain its decision on the Orions, something not even remotely in the contemplation of the Foreign
Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee in 1998 and 1999.
National will have to deal with the realities of Labour’s decisions. To do so we must consider the nature of New
Zealand’s responsibilities that have accrued over the course of a century, and we have to understand the changes that
are occurring in our region.
The current defence force is the product of geography, responsibilities and relationships. Unlike many other small
nations, we have always maintained a balance of military capabilities spread across three services.
This is largely a function of geography. An island nation surrounded by ocean must have a substantial naval and maritime
surveillance capability. The fact that we spend 50 percent of our defence resources on these two capabilities should
surprise no one. If we don’t have a minimum capability to monitor our own region, we can’t expect anyone else to help us
However, most conflict, particularly lower level conflict, occurs on land. The last decade has certainly shown the
instability of our region, and it has typically required troops on the ground to change the situation.
In essence, this is New Zealand’s defence conundrum – we occupy a maritime region where we need to be able to patrol, to
undertake surveillance, and to take action. The distances require highly capable aircraft and ships.
In contrast, the jungles of the Pacific and Asia have typically required highly-trained light infantry, and we have seen
these skills applied in our region for our 50 years.
However, there is an added dimension to these perceptions. The current debate, which is often seen as little more than
inter-service rivalry, also raises the issue of our defence partnerships. While each component of our defence force adds
value to our defence relationship, particularly with Australia, they do so in different ways.
Australia certainly understands and appreciates the value of our contribution in East Timor. But if a deployable army
were the sum total of our contribution, it would mean that New Zealand has unilaterally decided to value only one part
of the ANZAC defence partnership.
This is not to diminish the importance of the East Timor contribution. It has been demanding and it has required the
utmost military professionalism. New Zealanders can be proud that our army is among the very best in the world.
Australia knows the truth of that. East Timor is behind Australia’s rediscovery that we can, in fact, make a difference.
In fact, when you put aside Australia’s tank brigade, the two armies have virtually identical capabilities. We excel at
jungle warfare, and light operations.
II. OUR RELATIONSHIPS
Both major political parties in New Zealand see the ANZAC partnership as our most important defence relationship. But
light army operations are only part of the equation. We have broader security interests in common with Australia. These
involve threats that are either greater or different to land operations.
Labour’s argument is that these are fanciful; that in the post-Cold War era they are simply the wistful thinking of Cold
War warriors. Helen Clark’s dismissive disposal of the Orion upgrade was based on a misconception. She claimed it was
all about hunting submarines, a hangover of Cold War thinking. In displaying her ignorance of the purpose of Project
Sirius, she also displayed her distaste for the United States, and by implication, her conception of a strictly limited
relationship with Australia.
She acts in collusion with the extreme Greens to fundamentally distort our defence relationships. That is no way to
build any sense of consensus on defence.
In essence, this is the difference between National and Labour. We believe we are part of the framework of Western
nations with whom we have been linked for over a century. Part of the inclusion is the willingness to contribute at an
Labour wants to be more disconnected. It wants to be engaged only in light infantry roles, typically tied to
peacekeeping. Apart from the quite deep-seated ideological differences, it demonstrates the military flaws of this kind
of thinking, best illustrated by East Timor itself.
The lodgement of the INTERFET force required naval and air protection, confirmed by the Commander, Major General
Cosgrove. Two of our frigates were directly involved. Our Skyhawk squadron was held in reserve at Brisbane. Military
operations in our region can easily demand the comprehensive range of forces, and it is well within the capacity of New
Zealand to provide these forces.
III. THE STRUCTURE OF THE FORCE
By 2002 our defence force will be different to the defence force of today. The army will have been re-equipped. No one
doubts the need for this.
In fact, the current commitments are simply a continuation of National’s announcements of 1998. The only real critique
is the number of armoured fighting vehicles. Is 105 vehicles, at a cost of $600 million, too many?
There were alternatives – somewhat fewer vehicles and modernisation of the helicopters, or the re-equipping of the
Orions. $300 million would have gone well toward replacing the Iroquois with the more versatile Blackhawks. The real
suspicion is that Labour has deliberately spent $600 million to ensure the money is not available elsewhere.
All indications are that the decision to replace the Canterbury will have been made by 2002. I believe it is likely to
be replaced by an advanced logistics ship, similar to those operated by Singapore, Italy and the Netherlands. This might
be a valuable asset, but it is not a frigate. The deployment of two frigates to the Solomons demonstrates why three are
The Air Force is more problematic. Labour has left it an open question whether the Orions will be continued. Even as
recently as this week. Mark Burton would not confirm that the Orions will be retained. A decision to sell the Orions
would signal the end of any possibility real bi-partisanship on defence issues. It would also spell the end of a broader
ANZAC relationship, and relegate New Zealand to the margins.
On a slightly more hopeful note, I would anticipate the renewal or replacement of the Hercules.
As for the future of the air combat force, it is clearly not Labour’s current priority.
National will be faced with serious decisions in 2002, and they will cost money. We will be measured by our actions.
The starting point is the role we envisage for our nation. For National, this is clearly a full engagement in our
region. This means accepting that the ANZAC defence partnership is comprehensive, and that each nation should not ask
the other to assume the burden which it could readily contribute to. That means that Labour’s ‘Army Only’ approach will
be rejected in favour of a broader strategy.
In practical terms, it means making a proper contribution to naval patrols and maritime surveillance.
These will be our priorities:
National will upgrade the Orions to ensure they are fully interoperable with Australia’s aircraft. It is worth
recollecting that we have six, and Australia has 18. Our aircraft make a real difference in the region.
A sustainable, independent Navy requires three combat ships – or much closer integration with the Australian Navy.
This is a decision we must make within the next three years as we finalise our policies and weigh up priorities.
We will need to solve the conundrum of air combat. Modern forces, including the Army, must have a complete
understanding of air support. One option is to replace the Skyhawks with at least sufficient aircraft to maintain the
strike force knowledge base. The alternative is to make a credible contribution to an ANZAC air combat force. Failure to
do either will run the risk that our army and navy will lose their professionalism as the lose the ability to understand
modern air operations, with consequent difficulties of being able to work in a coalition operation.
IV. THE AFFORDABILITY OF DEFENCE
These decisions will cost money. If Labour does as it says, they will have committed $2 billion in capital expenditure,
which will be incurred over the next five year period. Only $1 billion can be found in depreciation allowances. The
additional expenditure, covering the replacement of the Canterbury and the Hercules, will require a capital injection.
National will have the responsibility of either re-acquiring or re-equipping the Orions, rebuilding a sustainable Navy,
and dealing with the air combat question. To maintain a defence force able to meet the full range of demands of the
ANZAC partnership is likely to require at least $3 billion capital expenditure over a ten year period. It seems a large
sum, but two thirds of it is covered by depreciation. The balance will require capital injections, but what does this
really mean on an annual basis?
One billion dollars represents around $110 million per year, in the form of capital charge. Coupled with increased
depreciation costs and personnel costs, the cost of rebuilding our defence force may be an extra $300 million per year.
New Zealand can afford this, but it will require an increased commitment from 1.1% of GDP to around 1.3 - 1.5%,
depending on economic growth. This is less than virtually any other country, including Australia, which spends 1.8% on
GDP. It is substantially less than in 1990, when we spent 1.8% of GDP. It does not mean huge annual increases.
Our friends and allies know this. This is why we will be measured by our actions rather than our words. As Admiral Blair
noted, we are a First World nation – we do have technological prowess. This was proven with our defence force in Project
Kahu, which updated the Skyhawks with F-16 radar, in helping build the frigates and innovative software solutions for
joint operations and combat simulation.
National believes we must play our proper part in the region. To do that, we must build and sustain a First World
defence force. It will be small, but it will be excellent.
We can afford it, if we plan carefully.
What we cannot afford is the alternative – total disengagement from our region and our world.