9 May 2015

What should the NZDF look like?

7:14 am on 9 May 2015

The Government has started to consult the public on the future of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

Defence Force soldiers in Afghanistan's Bamyan province in 2013.

Defence Force soldiers in Afghanistan's Bamyan province in 2013. Photo: NZ DEFENCE FORCE

The consultation documents on the Defence White Paper for 2015 were released this week, and the public has seven weeks to comment.

The New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the White Paper would outline how the NZDF should respond to threats and challenges facing the country.

The consultation document has been released along side a report called Defence Assessment 2014.

In that report some of the challenges New Zealand faces are outlined. The include an increased cyber threat to critical information structures, an increased risk of terrorism, renewed political, military and economic focus on the Asia Pacific by the United States and continued weakness in the global economy.

The report's writers did not think New Zealand would face a direct threat, but said any illusion that New Zealand was safe because of its location were wrong.

"Cyber threats, for example, can emanate from anywhere around the globe - New Zealand's location provides no immunity," the report said.

The consultation document asks for submissions on what New Zealanders think the NZDF's future role should be.

"With the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan, Afghanistan withdrawn and major operations in Timor Lest and Solomon Islands concluded, the Defence White Paper 2015 provides an opportunity to take stock and consider where, how and to what extent New Zealand should contribute to international peace and security efforts," the paper said.

Victoria University's Centre for Strategic Studies director Jim Rolfe said the consultation document showed the Government's position on the region was one of caution.

He said areas of concern included cyber security and the East and South China Seas.

He said New Zealanders should get involved in the consultation process because it was a significant area of public policy and public spending.

"The more the public can be involved in policy development, the better we are off as a country," he said.

"That's not to say the public will make the decisions, but at least the officials advising the Government have heard the public's view and are in a position to advise the Government on what they see is the public view."

The White Paper is expected to be published before the end of the year.

For information on how to make a submission go here.