'Reverse nimbyism' jeopardising military operations - Mark

7:24 pm on 11 July 2019

Defence Minister Ron Mark has taken aim at "metropolitan urban New Zealand", saying its "reverse nimbyism" is jeopardising military operations.

Defence Minister Ron Mark

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

He has raised the prospect of relocating some of its sites to the provinces and setting up "super-bases" where they are more welcome.

The government released the details of a sweeping review into the military's "rundown and outdated" sites on Thursday, with Mr Mark describing it as "the most advanced piece of thinking" ever into the estate.

Mr Mark told RNZ the assessment would consider the futures of all 58 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) -managed sites - including nine bases and camps over the next 50 years.

"It could see some bases closed. It could see some new bases being built.

"What if a future government decides that it does want to reinstate an air combat capability?

"Where would that go?"

The review would consider threats such as climate change and encroaching urban development, Mr Mark said.

"We know how hungry property developers are and city councils are... for taking property off the Defence Force.

"It's reverse nimbyism that killed off Wigram Air Force base. It was the desire for more housing space and the short-term thinking of a government who gave up Hobsonville and that's constrained us."

Mr Mark zeroed in on Whenuapai Air Base in western Auckland - the country's largest - as another site under threat by that same attitude.

"We're in the Environment Court now with a property developer trying to restrict the time of day that we can start our engines."

Devonport Naval Base on Auckland's North Shore is also viewed as attractive real estate by property developers, local council and other government departments.

"If this sort of metropolitan reverse nimbyism is going to jeopardise the operations of our security forces, maybe we do need to start looking at relocating them into the provinces," Mr Mark said.

The review would consider whether Whenuapai was better placed further north in a "greenfield location" with brand-new modern capabilities, he said.

A "super army base" in Waiouru or a "super air force base" in Ohakea were options that could be explored, as was shifting Devonport Naval Base to Whangarei.

"Somewhere where the local populace value and warmly welcome the Defence Force and the hundreds of millions of dollars that they would inject into their economies," Mr Mark said.

The government has also increased the budget to help revamp the military's infrastructure from $1.7 billion to $2.1b by 2030.

In February, RNZ reported that much of the NZDF estate - camps, buildings, roads and water infrastructure - was outdated, with 41 percent barely meeting or failing to meet functional requirements.