Operation Burnham: New Defence Force review set to shake up overseas deployment processes

A new review of the Defence Force (NZDF) is set to shake up its processes during overseas deployments. 

An expert panel set up by the Government to review the NZDF's structure, information management and record-keeping has made nine recommendations in its 93-pages report released on Monday.

The recommendations include strengthening the integration between the NZDF and Ministry of Defence for the duration of a deployment and improving the management of information management and practices. The NZSAS, or New Zealand Special Air Service, will also be continued to be integrated into the wider NZDF and national security sector.

The panel was set up in response to an inquiry into Operation Burnham which found while there was no official cover-up of casualties during the operation in Afghanistan in 2010, military officials knew it was possible and did not investigate the allegations. 

Defence Minister Peeni Henare says he has accepted all nine of the panel's recommendations and has directed the chief of the NZDF Air Marshal Kevin Short and the Secretary of Defence Andrew Bridgman to implement them in an integrated way.  

"More needs to be done to make sure that the failings highlighted in the inquiry are not repeated in the future," Henare said.

"Strong defence systems and processes, oversight and transparency are central to maintaining trust and confidence in Defence to deliver complex operations.

"I expect regular progress reports from officials on this work," Henare said.

The chair of the expert review group, Lyn Provost, said they expected the Defence Minister to uphold his accountability obligations and this requires the right information to flow to the right people at the right time. 

"Protecting information can be a matter of life and death for the military," she said. "The improvements we are recommending include strengthening military and policy integration throughout deployments," Provost said.