12 May 2015

Military band cuts affect some WWI events

6:34 am on 12 May 2015

New Zealand's military bands have had to turn down offers to play at some World War One commemorations after funding cuts have left them stretched.

NZ Army Band performs at a Rugby Sevens tournament, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 2012.

The New Zealand Army Band performing at Westpac Stadium, Wellington. Photo: NZ Defence Force

In 2012 the Defence Force announced it would axe funding to seven of the 10 military bands in an effort to save more than $2.6 million over five years.

Three military bands still receive Defence Force funding - one each from the army, navy and the air force.

International Military Music Society New Zealand Branch spokesperson Bob Davis said those bands would struggle to meet the demand to appear at WWI commemorations.

"There's so much more demand because everyone is marking events such as Gallipoli.

"One band can only be in one place at any one time. The demand for buglers and drummers is considerable."

Mr Davis said the remaining bands had been stretched without the other seven helping with the work.

"The savings made weren't very big in the first place because [they were] the reserve bands and those bands are not the expensive bands," he said.

But in a statement, the Defence Force said $1.82 million had been saved as of June last year and the money reinvested into front-line military activities.

A spokesperson said the military bands had been able to meet all official celebrations so far, but some non-official events were turned down because there were too many requests for the bands to cope with.

An ex-territorial force band member told Radio New Zealand the funding cuts had taken their toll.

"Initially we lost a lot of people in the band - they felt quite upset about how the whole process had been handled and it was really unfortunate.

"It had a real big negative effect on the camaraderie and the commitment to the band and we lost a lot of people."

The woman, who asked not to be named, said the cuts had decimated the military music culture in New Zealand.

She said the bands had helped reach the hearts of New Zealanders, and the military should take another look at whether the cuts had been worth it.