Defence Force eyes drones in $20B wish list
After months of delays the Defence Force has finally released its 15-year plan, and it comes with a price tag of $20 billion.
The White Paper 2016 wish-list includes requests for new planes, ships, and a huge boost to its cyber security capabilities, including the possibility of purchasing drones for aerial surveillance and intelligence gathering.
It wants to replace 13 existing aircraft and five naval vessels, and have the Army digitised and beefed up with specialised cyber security personnel and intelligence officers.
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says the plan would help the Defence Force meet "the country's security and defence challenges".
"These challenges include having awareness of, and being able to respond to, activities in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone, supporting our interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and protecting Defence information networks against increasing cyber threats."
Mr Brownlee says it will give the Defence Force more certainty in funding until 2030. He believes it has seen a "culture shift" in the way it acquires equipment because of policy reviews.
"In the past, capabilities have tended to be considered for replacement or upgrading in isolation without much regard for the wider strategic environment."
Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand's geographic isolation "no longer provides the protection it once did".
"While New Zealanders can be confident that the country does not face a direct military threat in the foreseeable future, we have to be able to manage a range of other security challenges."
Defence Force boss Lieutenant General Tim Keating says the aims of the White Paper can't be achieved without properly trained forces.
"We need to continue to attract New Zealand's best into our ranks."
Labour's defence spokesman Phil Goff believes there are two things missing from the White Paper -- what the suggested options for the major replacements are, and how to deal with the skills shortfall in the Defence Force.
"Just last month, the Auditor-General said that what's holding up the utilisation of our assets is a significant shortfall in skills and in capabilities."
He didn't know whether the cost was value for money because there were no specifics in terms of what it wanted to buy instead.
"The Government has been agonising for months over what they replace the C-130 Hercules with. The minister wanted C-17s, other people in the Defence Force wanted something different.
"There's been a stalemate, a deadlock, there's been a lack of decisiveness and no decisions have been revealed to the public despite this white paper being eight months late."
Green Party co-leader James Shaw says it's important that money is well-spent, fit-for-purpose and accounted for.
"I think it would be great if New Zealand could live up to its commitment of spending 0.7 percent of GDP on overseas aid, for example, but we recognise that defence spending is expensive and a lot of our equipment is outdated and we want to make sure our people have the best equipment they can and that they are as safe as possible".
The white paper was developed with other Government agencies.