Does de­fence need bil­lions?


Who knows a few MPs cur­rently des­per­ate for sup­port might join the gaol bird tun­nel­ing team....dig­ging for Welling­ton, dig­ging for Porirua and the Kapiti Coast...who cares as long as the job gets done.


I amdis­gusted at the re­peated in­crease of my boat shed rates at Ti­tahi Bay Beach.

It has in­creased from the $200 it was a few years ago to $580 last year then another in­crease to $660 from June 2016 to June 2017.

I get wa­ter sup­plied and we pay our own power com­pany bill. So can the Porirua and Welling­ton city coun­cils prove what the rates are for?

Can they give a de­tailed price list of what we are charged for wa­ter etc?

There are sev­eral sheds for sale now and th­ese in­creased rate prices must be a huge factor in those peo­ple de­cid­ing to sell.

I was go­ing to leave the fam­ily boat­shed to my kids for a good life, not to be a fi­nan­cial bur­den.

I won­der if coun­cil­lors owned boat sheds would they vote to lower rates or raise them?

The costs in­volved in De­fence are re­li­ably stu­pen­dous. In Fe­bru­ary, New Zealand spent $440 mil­lion on a fresh ar­ma­ments sys­tem for our An­zac frigates, even though the ships in ques­tion are on sched­ule to be re­placed 10 years af­ter the new kit is in­stalled.

Then in March, the gov­ern­ment au­tho­rised a $373m re­vamp of our P-3K2 Ori­ons, also due for re­place­ment in about ten years. Last week, the gov­ern­ment un­veiled a White Pa­per set­ting out a $20 bil­lion spend­ing pro­gramme for De­fence in the next 15 years.

At this point, it re­mains un­clear how this bo­nanza will be carved up be­tween the costs of re­plac­ing the An­zac frigates, the Boe­ing 757 ‘‘strate­gic air­lift’’ plane, the Her­cules C-130 ‘‘tac­ti­cal air­lift’’ planes, the Orion sur­veil­lance air­craft, the com­bined dive ship and hy­dro­graphic ves­sel and the new ice-strength­ened Off­shore Pa­trol Ves­sel, along with smaller items.

Dur­ing the work­ing life of this equip­ment, no ex­ter­nal threat is en­vis­aged to New Zealand or the South Pa­cific.

Last week, Prime Min­is­ter John Key said re­as­sur­ingly that, ‘‘the coun­try can be con­fi­dent it does not face a mil­i­tary threat in the fore­see­able fu­ture,’’ but this happy out­look will not de­liver a peace div­i­dend to the tax­payer.

Ap­par­ently, De­fence is a greater pri­or­ity than so­cial need. By con­trast, the pub­lic health sys­tem is largely be­ing left to cope with its ex­ist­ing lev­els of un­met need – let alone what may soon be added to that given our age­ing pop­u­la­tion. Such al­ter­na­tives may have been fore­closed. The new $20b of spend­ing comes out at roughly $1.3b (mi­nus sav­ings from de­pre­ci­a­tion) ev­ery year un­til 2030.

In re­cent Bud­gets, $1.3b has been roughly the an­nual dis­cre­tionary spend set aside for emer­gen­cies, for ar­eas such as Health. In fu­ture, De­fence could well soak up that ca­pac­ity. It will be al­most like hav­ing a Can­ter­bury Fi­nance bailout ev­ery year for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

On the for­eign pol­icy front of late, New Zealand has been awk­wardly shut­tling be­tween the need to pla­cate our clos­est de­fence part­ner, Australia, and our clos­est trad­ing part­ner, China.

The ten­sions in the South China Sea, and the re­lated anx­i­eties about keep­ing the sealanes open for our trade, are be­ing touted as a prime ra­tio­nale for spend­ing on De­fence, along with ter­ror­ism and cy­ber threats.

Yet si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the gov­ern­ment is ar­gu­ing that none of this will ever re­sult in mil­i­tary con­flict and that China poses ab­so­lutely no threat to us, or to the re­gion.

In­ter­est­ingly, while in China last Septem­ber De­fence Min­is­ter Gerry Brownlee said: ‘‘We do not see our de­fence re­la­tion­ships with the United States and China as mu­tu­ally exclusive.’’

Mean­ing : New Zealand is no longer only in the Western mil­i­tary club. China is now seen to be our mil­i­tary ally, it seems, as well as a trad­ing part­ner.

Plainly, the pub­lic is be­ing given one mes­sage to jus­tify the huge hike in De­fence spend­ing, and quite another when the gov­ern­ment is talk­ing down such con­cerns, when en­gaged in diplo­macy and trade.

The risk of po­lit­i­cal fall­out from that con­tra­dic­tion is con­sid­er­able.

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