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Budget pressure didn't cause chopper crash

Wednesday 28 Nov 2012 7:25 a.m.

Three people died in the Anzac Day 2010 crash

Three people died in the Anzac Day 2010 crash

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The Government is rejecting claims a Defence Force budget squeeze contributed to a helicopter crash that killed three air force personnel.

A leaked Defence Force report says the three Iroquois helicopters took off from Ohakea Air Base before dawn on April 25, 2010, with their crews using night vision googles, partly because it was considered too expensive to put the personnel up in a hotel the night before.

The helicopters were due to take part in a flyover of Wellington's Anzac Day dawn service.

However, the second Iroquois in the formation crashed just before 6am at Pukerua Bay, north of Wellington, killing three crew members and leaving another seriously injured.

The air force's internal accident analysis report says "the need to minimise accommodation costs incurred by 3 Squadron due to pressure on the accommodation budget was recognised and contributed to the ... decision (not to fly the day before)".

NZ First leader Winston Peters says it would have cost just $600 to put the three airmen in a hotel for the night - but instead they "paid the ultimate sacrifice for the Government's slash and burn polices".

Labour's defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway says it's clear the Government's requirement for the Defence Force to "do more with less" was a factor in the decision to fly in the dark that morning.

But that was rejected by Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman, who says budget pressures were not listed as a "cause" of the crash in the court of inquiry report, although there were "considerations" that needed to be taken into account.

"[The court of inquiry report] doesn't go into the whole range of factors that may have influenced that decision to fly at night, but the point was that wasn't a cause of the crash."

He says the Defence Force has received legal advice not to make the leaked report public.

Dr Coleman ordered an independent inquiry last month into the Department of Labour's failure to investigate health and safety issues behind the crash, and expects a report before Christmas.

He has also ordered a review of safety improvements following the crash.


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