Military staff stood down amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour

9:00 pm on 25 July 2018

Senior staff at Waiouru Military Camp have been stood down amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

Waiouru military training camp

Waiouru military training camp Photo: Google Maps

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) said two members of the leadership team have been replaced and others have been removed from duties while the military police investigate allegations of inappropriate behaviour, failing to follow standing orders and failure to follow established procedures.

The investigations involve seven people and relate to The Army Depot, a unit in the army responsible for training new recruits.

NZDF said the two members of the leadership team who had also been stood down were not facing investigation.

Chief of Army Peter Kelly said the allegations were brought to his attention on 27 June and the investigation was launched two days later.

"What we uncovered, there were seven incidents that make up the allegations, and so that's why seven individuals are being investigated.

"In one case, yes a recruit did come forward and make an allegation."

A male recruit said he had been subjected to bullying, harassment and sexual assault at the Army Depot, he said.

Major-General Kelly said the Defence Force had worked very hard to address issues around sexual harassment and bullying and it was taking the matter very seriously.

He said the priority was to complete the investigation to ensure proper procedures were followed.

"As an Army, we hold ourselves to the highest levels of behaviour - well above those to which we are legally bound," he said.

"Where we see performance and behaviours that do not match our expectations, we will act. The leadership changes we have made were put in place to move The Army Depot forward in a positive way."

The military police and the army command were in charge of the investigation, but police might intervene if it became a criminal matter, Major-General Kelly said.

In a statement, the Defence Force said it expected formal disciplinary procedures would start soon and therefore it would not be making further comment.

Hayley Young - who is suing the Defence Force over rape and sexual harassment in the Navy - said she was not surprised fresh allegations had surfaced.

She said that when she joined the Navy she and other women were warned in their initial training about the culture they would be exposed to.

"The guys are gonna hit on you, there's gonna be rude comments, it's part of working in a male-dominated culture.

"We were, sort of, given some tips on how to protect ourselves and I found that actually quite unhelpful."

She said that advice sent the message that she had to take all the responsiblity for her own health and safety onboard ship.

Minister was not aware of investigation

Defence Minister Ron Mark said he only became aware of the allegations through media today.

He told RNZ he was unhappy that he had not officially been told about the inquiry and he had a clear message for Defence Force personnel in leadership roles.

"It is against the standing orders for relationships to be formed between instructors or recruits, that's the bottom line.

"There are standards expected of those who are entrusted and given charge and responsibility for training our young men and women and preparing them for war.

"Those standards will not be allowed to be degraded or in any way undercut."

National's defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell said he had also only just heard of the allegations but he did not believe they signified a cultural problem in the military.

"No, absolutely not. I've been very proud of the steps the Defence Force have taken to make sure that there's a safe workplace for everyone.

"I'd need to see the details around it."