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16 Feb 2024

Proposed savings could hit New Zealand military capabilities -NZ defence chief: Reuters

Proposed savings could hit New Zealand military capabilities -NZ defence chief: Reuters
New Zealand Armed Forces
Originally posted on Reuters - By Lucy Craymer

Proposed funding cuts to New Zealand’s Defence Force (NZDF) could result in the service's retiring its Seasprite helicopters and reducing maintenance schedules, which could hurt combat capability, the head of the defence force said on Thursday.

The new New Zealand government has asked all ministries to find savings as it attempts to balance its books. The NZDF has been asked to cut costs by 6.5%, even as it struggles with high staff attrition, a lack of funding and ageing equipment.

Air Marshal Kevin Short told reporters on Thursday that some trims could be made but that meeting the NZ$150 million ($91.23 million) worth of savings requested would mean divesting in a capability such as the Seasprites.

The helicopters are use for maritime patrol and surveillance, and search and rescue.

They “are old helicopters, costing us a lot of money, so what I’ve said is if we have to push towards that (cutting of costs) we would put those aircraft on the ground and get them off the books,” he said.

However, he said, he did not want to do that because it would make New Zealand’s naval ships less capable.

The NZDF has already idled three of the country’s nine ships; the military estimates it will be three years before they are operational again.

“I don’t want to scale that down any further. I need operating money to keep delivering what the government wants and to keep delivering them options,” Short said.

The government has acknowledged that investment is needed in the NZDF and a Defence Force Capability report is expected to be released in June after this year's budget. Defence Minister Judith Collins has said the country was going to have to invest more in the military.

Short had told the committee that personnel attrition was at a more manageable level after an injection of funding from the previous government.

Read original article here.

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