Who or what are we defending New Zealand from?
The very empty hemisphere around New Zealand.
global projection centered on Wellington, New Zealand
source: Google Earth


New Zealand has 14,600 defence force staff and spends $1.4 billion per year (or 0.7% of GDP ) on Vote Defence. That's $430 in tax for each adult 20 and over.
By comparison New Zealand has 41,531 registered teachers and spends $7.5 billion per year on Vote Education (including tertiary). So defence is roughly a quarter the size of the education system. Does it provide equivalent value to taxpayers? Would New Zealand be richer in the long term if more was spent on education and less on defence?

If Naval and Land Combat programmes were discontinued (ie the frigates and infantry regiment but not the EEZ patrol, special forces or support forces like artillery, engineers or logistics) Vote Defence could be reduced by $864 million. This would be the same as reducing each taxpayer's tax bill by $264 per year. If $864 million was added to the operational budgets of New Zealand schools and kindergartens they would increase by 50%. If this was targeted at New Zealand's most deprived schools what would the effect be on national development? What would happen to the long term social welfare costs of the country?

The total taxpayer sacrifice for destructive capital for two frigates, eight NH90 helicopters and 105 light armoured vehicles was $2.719 billion. This is over 20% of the total 2011 school asset register by value. Do we get the equivalent value of a quarter of all state owned schools from two frigates, 8 helicopters and 108 armoured trucks? Unlikely, as only a few can be deployed outside of New Zealand, and there are no wars here.

New Zealand is the most remote nation on earth.  It's nearest neighbours are France (New Caledonia), Australia, and numerous tiny Pacific Island nations. New Zealand faces no military threats either today, nor in the foreseeable future. Why then should New Zealand spend so much on defence? How does this benefit taxpayers? Could it benefit taxpayers more than it does now? These are the questions this site seeks to address.

This site is version three in this series, and the most different. The previous site was unveiled in 2006. It anticipated a major urban earthquake event in New Zealand.
On 4 September 2010 Christchurch began a series of major urban earthquakes which have apparently finished.  The experience of these earthquakes has proven the assumptions of the previous site to be largely incorrect. The actual earthquake challenged the potential value of the military in such events which had underpinned my assumptions. 

Essentially it showed that good building standards and civilian volunteerism was significantly more important than any military contribution. This was important because my calculations showed that a military risk only justified a defence force half the size of the existing one. If the civil defence contribution of the military was not significant a key justification for the defence force's current size was wiped out with Christchurch's buildings.
It has, however, only strengthened my conviction that in a geologically-active and remote region such as ours there are no good grounds for separating defence and civil defence. The experience of the catastrophic wrecking of the MV Rena on 5 October 2011 creating New Zealand's worst ever environmental disaster has also reinforced in my view the apparent need for the defence force to maintain a role in defending our nation's natural environment. 

This is not to say the defence force has not been heavily involved in both tasks but it has not been equipped for these roles. It has equipped itself (and judging by the various Audit Office report's into its management, done so embarrassingly poorly) purely for combat scenarios which are due more to fanciful flights of glory-bound imagination than any actual deployment experience. The result has sadly been failures of capacity that have led directly to loss of life while on active duty.

Key Findings

Essentially every dollar taken from taxpayers for defence is a dollar not invested in making our nation richer. This fact can only be mitigated by effective use of defence resources to secure our natural resources, reduce risk and promote our industry. But this expenditure must be proportional to the risk. There is no good evidence provided either by the NZDF or the Ministry of Defence, nor any of the various reviews, that this is in fact the case.
This site therefore examines all hazards and proposes changes over time to the defence force that would reduce its costs by around 33% but retain its ability to respond to likely (as opposed to imaginary) hazards.  These include civil defence, bio-defence and environmental catastrophes. It also proposes structures which will assist New Zealand's companies to develop and sell better products, particularly in the textile and, aerospace and marine industries.

These include:

Discontinuing the Naval Combat Force and replacing the ANZAC frigates with two ice breaking Environment Protection Vessels modelled after the Norwegian coastguard vessel KV Svalbard.

Selling half the LAV III fleet and refitting half the remainder for other tasks

Reducing the regular force armed services in generic regimental structures from 4,500 to 2,400 in targeted battalion structures.

No change to SAS or No.3 helicopter squadron (other than to add FLIR and air-to-air refueling to the NH90s)

Greatly enhancing the Naval Logistic Force by replacing Endeavor with two much larger supply ships able to carry Marine launches, helicopters and troops.

Starting a Marine Battalion with organic helicopter and NZ built long-range, high-speed flexible catamarans to provide coastal protection and fisheries surveillance in association with local industry.

Replacing the 5 SH2 Seasprite helicopters with 12 navalised A109s.

Replacing the Lockheed Martin C-130H and P-3K aircraft with Embraer KC-390 aircraft and Avenger Drones.

Building a new New Zealand Military Academy for training

Establishing a New Zealand Arsenal for development and maintenance of military assets in association with local industry especially in catamaran construction, outdoor clothing, and light armoured vehicles.

Greatly increasing the skills, pay and equipment quality of the remaining force so that it can play a role in defending NZ from all hazards. Instead of being an organisation people pass through it will be an organisation people can sign on for for long periods because the military environment is getting too complicated for anything less than even more highly trained professionals and retention of skills is essential.

DefendNZ Blog

Subpages (1): Context