Lloyd Burr: Labour/Greens will decimate the Defence Force

NZDF defence force orion (supplied)
The P-3 Orion fleet is 51 years old (supplied / file)

OPINION: Labour and the Greens are in la-la land if they think they can use $20 billion earmarked for a long-needed Defence Force upgrade as a slush fund for their election policies.

The Defence Force has been on the bones of its backside for long enough, and another round of austerity would see it lose many of its key capabilities.

The 15-year $20b plan will see a whole range of old and expired ships and planes and other gear replaced with new ones that are fit-for-purpose, reliable, and more efficient.

Labour leader Andrew Little says there's no point in having state-of-the-art defence equipment if there are people living on the streets, or if there's underfunding in schools.

Well Mr Little, there's no point having an Air Force if it doesn't have planes to fly, or a Navy that doesn't have the right ships, or an Army that doesn't have the latest digital battlefield equipment.

Greens co-leader James Shaw is also sceptical about the planned spend, and would like to see it re-prioritised.

Well, Mr Shaw, here's the reality: The C-130 Hercules fleet is 52 years old. The P-3 Orion fleet is 51 years old. The Boeing 757 fleet is 35 years old. The HMNZS Endeavour is 29 years old. The HMNZS Manawanui is 37 years old.

There's not much life left in them.

Labour and the Greens want to make this antique kit last another 15 years. They're dreaming.

Labour would never have made this move if Phil Goff was still an MP. He's been calling for more defence spending since 2009.

The Defence Force has spent far too long struggling to make ends meet with shrinking budgets and ageing infrastructure.

The last headache it needs is the thought of spending the next 15 years trying to protect New Zealand with the gear it has.

Lloyd Burr is a political reporter for Newshub.