18 Oct 2019

Ex-Minister knew of Operation Burnham report but didn't pass information on

6:56 pm on 18 October 2019

The former Minister of Defence has admitted he knew about a report saying civilians might've been killed in Operation Burnham - but didn't pass the information on.

no caption

Dr Wayne Mapp, speaking about the New Zealand Defence Force's involvement in Afghanistan. (File photo). Photo: Pool / Fairfax Visuals

Wayne Mapp has given evidence to the inquiry investigating allegations of a cover-up over possible deaths in Afghanistan in 2010.

His admission comes after it was found a secret report explaining the possibility of civilian deaths had been in a Defence Force safe since 2011.

During today's hearing Dr Mapp said he was briefed on the report, but did not remember reading it, or being given it.

An earlier witness, Jim Blackwell, gave detailed evidence about telling Dr Mapp about the report, and said he believed Mr Mapp had read it.

But under questioning from inquiry lawyer Kristy McDonald, Dr Mapp said Mr Blackwell told him there was no evidence civilians had certainly been killed - so he didn't act on it.

"The reality is I didn't take any action, I know that," he said.

Ms McDonald asked if he should have.

"It would have been better ... well. The things I could have done is this, I could've talked to someone. That would have been primarily Stuart [Dr Mapp's

political advisor Stuart Boag] first of all I guess - Stuart, second the PMs office, third Murray McCully.

"But I didn't do that ... I didn't do that."

He agreed with Ms McDonald that he should have spoken to someone.

Dr Mapp insisted he had not read the report that outlined the possible casualties, and was acting on the advice of Mr Blackwell.

He said he did not think prior claims from the Defence Force, and himself, that the allegations of civilian casualties were false.

However, he said the assessment he made might not have been the right response.

Ms McDonald suggested Dr Mapp should have read the report, as the minister in charge, and he replied "well I didn't, did I".

Eventually, after much questioning, Dr Mapp conceeded he should have read the report "in hindsight", but still maintained the public record would not have been corrected.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs