Judith Collins says Defence Force did 'well' finding savings, but 'can't get blood out of a stone'

The Defence Force is to get a near-$600 million boost in the Budget, with the money going towards personnel pay, equipment and infrastructure.  

Defence Minister Judith Collins made the announcement at Burnham Military Camp on Friday morning, where she began by inspecting some of the country's ageing defence vehicles.

But the main event was her announcement of an additional $571 million for Defence at this year's Budget.   

Of that, $408 million is going towards equipment and infrastructure. Subject to a final greenlight from Cabinet, it will include replacing the Unimogs and Pinzgauer trucks - the NZDF's workhorses.  

Also in for an upgrade are the NH90 helicopters - they'll get improved navigation and radio systems. There's money for a new maritime threat system that shows what's happening across our waters and the Pacific. And 35 homes will be built at the Devonport Naval Base.  

Officials have also been warning for years about the number of people leaving the Defence Force. In June last year, the attrition rate sat at about 14 percent - but it's now down to less than 10 percent.  

"I would like to see around 7 percent. That would be a great target to get," Collins said.    

To help, $163 million over four years will go to improving the pay of uniformed personnel. That pales in comparison to the roughly $420 million over four years injected by the Labour Government last year.  

Asked by Newshub why there was such a bigger difference, Collins said it was the amount the Government could afford and it was a "significant improvement" on what Defence currently have.  

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said: "This is business as usual. It is less than the investment we made in Defence last year."  

About $100 million of the funding boost comes from savings found at the Defence Force as part of the Government's savings programme.    

Newshub asked Collins how close the NZDF got to the 6.5 percent savings target it was given.  

She said, "they did well". Asked what "well" meant, she said: "Look, you can't get blood out of a stone." 

The minister's expecting to receive a defense capability plan next month which will signal where further investment is needed.   

Many of our international partners are spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense, whereas we're only slightly over 1 percent. The minister says she would like to see it lifted, but there's only so much money.  

"It would be a lovely thing wouldn't it. "