27 Oct 2022

Legislation for Defence Force watchdog introduced at Parliament

5:02 pm on 27 October 2022
New Zealand Army soldiers inside an Australian Army vehicle during the mission rehearsal exercise for Task Group Taji 3 at RAAF Edinburgh, with about 300 Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen prepared for deployment to Iraq in exercise at RAAF Edinburgh in Adelaide, South Australia.

The idea of a NZDF watchdog came out of the Operation Burnham inquiry. File image. Photo: NZDF / Supplied

Legislation establishing an independent watchdog for the New Zealand Defence Force has been introduced to Parliament.

The creation of Inspector-General of Defence was one recommendation that came out of the Operation Burnham Inquiry.

That identified significant shortcomings in the way the defence force dealt with allegations of civilian casualties, resulting in a series of incorrect statements in briefings to ministers and the public between 2010 and 2017.

The inquiry did find a child was killed during Operation Burnham in Afghanistan in 2010, but the operation that led to her death was justified under international law.

Four other people were also killed, but the government inquiry could not determine if they were civilians or insurgents.

Peeni Henare

Defence Minister Peeni Henare. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Defence Minister Peeni Henare said anyone would be able to raise concerns of potential wrongdoing and the bill would ensure the office would have full discretion over whether to act on any allegations.

The idea is to have an office providing independent oversight and acting to improve accountability, similar to the role played by the existing Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

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