For Sale: Defence vehicles sit idle waiting for a buyer

8:32 am on 20 July 2018

The Defence Force is struggling to sell 20 light armoured vehicles (LAVs) that have been sitting idle for seven years because they are surplus to requirements.

NZ Defence Force Light Armoured Vehicles.

NZ Defence Force Light Armoured Vehicles. Photo: RNZ / Peter Fowler

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act reveal an unnamed foreign delegation inspected the LAVs early last year, but a year-and-a-half on, they're still in storage.

The previous Labour government bought 105 LAVs from General Dynamics Land Systems Canada for $653 million. They entered service in 2003.

One was destroyed in a bomb attack in Afghanistan and only some of the remaining 104 are regularly used.

Defence decided it didn't need 20 of them in 2011 and they have been in storage at the Trentham Military Camp, north of Wellington, waiting for a new home.

OIA documents showed they were inspected by a foreign delegation in February last year - but that didn't lead to anything.

In the past eight years there's been interest from seven countries.

The documents say as time passed and the vehicles get older the price would likely go down.

"The gross unit price was originally estimated at about US $ [redacted] although this expectation is changing over time due to vehicle age and ongoing assessment of the market."

"Any actual sale would be subject to negotiation on price, conditions, commissions and any sale costs," the documents reveal.

Trentham Military Camp.

The vehicles have been in storage at the Trentham Military Camp, north of Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Defence expert Dr Ron Smith has previously described the purchase as foolish and doubts whether a sale would ever go through.

"Any income is a good thing, but really it is kind of small beer now ... all the mistakes have been made ... if we can get something out of it at this stage - why not," he said.

National's Mark Mitchell, who was defence minister at the time the foreign delegation came last year, said the net for a buyer had been cast wide.

"Sometimes there's countries that don't have a big budget for their Defence spend ... a second hand LAV might fit into their overall programme and there's lots of countries that could probably meet that criteria ... but I don't think there's any one specific country that has sort of been singled out," he said.

Lessons learned

The Defence Force's procurement process was recently given a glowing reference by Sir Brian Roche.

Hot on the heels of that, Defence Minister Ron Mark announced his first big purchase, the new P8 Poseidon planes that would replace the old Orions.

Mr Mark has been a vocal critic of the LAV purchase for many years.

He was not available for an interview but in a statement said there were too many sitting idle and doing nothing.

Mr Mark said he was looking at new protected mobility vehicles - which could replace the LAVs and other vehicles such as the armoured Light Operational Vehicles - but said any replacement was years away.

He did not say how much the 20 LAVs were being sold for.