8 Nov 2010

Minister concerned group allowed to use SAS weapons

10:02 am on 8 November 2010

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says he is concerned a group of business executives was allowed to use weapons in a training session with elite New Zealand troops.

Seventy executives from Direct Capital Limited and associated companies took part in a day-long session with the SAS at Papakura Military Camp on 28 October.

They were briefed on the SAS culture, allowed to fire weapons and met Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata.

The Defence Force describes the day as an interaction about enhancing leadership, culture and team dynamics.

It is understood a $500 per head fee was negotiated for the exercise and Direct Capital is expected to make a $35,000 donation to the SAS Trust for the opportunity.

Dr Mapp said on Monday the use of weapons by the executives does cause concern and there will be lessons to be learned about how the SAS interacts with the wider business community.

However, he said a private firm having access to the SAS had to be kept in perspective and the executives would not have seen anything they hadn't already seen on television.

The minister defended the day as an appropriate fundraiser and said the SAS was not being rented out.

The Labour Party said the training exercise was a dangerous distraction from the core function of the SAS and the question of whether they are being funded adequately needs to be asked.