NZ military export control review to be led by former MBIE head David Smol

Former MBIE Chief Executive, David Smol.
Former MBIE Chief Executive, David Smol. Photo credit: RNZ

By Mackenzie Smith for RNZ

A former government official has been tasked with reviewing New Zealand's military exports controls regime.

The review was commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) after TVNZ reported an Air New Zealand unit was carrying out repair work on planes for the Royal Saudi Navy. 

The review will be led by David Smol, a former chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Air New Zealand later terminated the contract. MFAT cleared itself of wrongdoing, determining the engines were not a controlled good.

However, RNZ later revealed MFAT had approved exports of military goods to forces in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite concerns by the United Nations and rights groups that this equipment may be fuelling Yemen's civil war.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are part of a coalition that is supporting Yemen's ousted president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, have carried out extensive and, according to the UN, indiscriminate bombing of areas in Yemen controlled by Houthi rebel forces. MFAT officials have stood by the export permits.

In a statement, MFAT said the review "will cover the legislative mandate for the export controls framework, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's implementation of the framework, and all associated policies, roles, delegations and business practice."

No timeline has been set.

The ministry added that Smol "brings considerable experience and expertise to the review as a former senior public service leader".

According to Terms of Reference posted on the ministry's website, the review will include fieldwork involving the assessment of "a sample of export permit applications and approvals".

The six "key business contacts" listed for the review are made up of MFAT officials.