21 Apr 2009

Voluntary national service part of defence review

5:02 pm on 21 April 2009

A defence review, announced by the Government on Tuesday, includes proposals for voluntary national service and the private management of defence force bases.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says a White Paper will be published early next year setting out the Government's direction for defence, particularly over the next decade when decisions have to be made about replacing ageing equipment.

Dr Mapp says there is a need to manage bases and camps better, with many parts of them substantially run down.

And the Associate Defence Minister Heather Roy says there may be ways to work with the private sector, including leasing land or buildings.

"The Defence Force doesn't necessarily need to own everything. It could work in a partnership where somebody else owns the land or owns the buildings and they're leased back," she said.

Other aspects of the review include the possible sale of some light armoured vehicles bought by the previous Government.

The army has 105 light armoured vehicles and Dr Mapp says they are mostly in long term storage.

Dr Mapp expects defence spending to stay at its present level of around 1% of GDP.

The Labour leader Phil Goff says the sale of any of the army's light armoured vehicles would be risky and short-sighted.

He says the vehicles may be needed in future peacekeeping deployments to keep New Zealand personnel safe on the ground.

Youth scheme mooted

Ms Roy says there are a number of options for a youth scheme in defence.

She says it could pull together existing programmes, including the government's proposed Fresh Start scheme involving boot-camps.

Or, Mrs Roy says, educational scholarships could be offered in return for time served with the Defence forces.

Three people have been appointed to an independent ministerial advisory panel to assist with the review.

They are: Customs chief executive Martyn Dunne, Ernst & Young chief executive Rob McLeod and retiring foreign affairs secretary, Simon Murdoch.