A COMMODORE COMMENTS
In your November cover story, Nicky Hager was deeply critical of the NZ Defence Force.
I joined the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1965 and I retired more than 40 years later. I held many positions, both at sea and ashore, including very senior positions in Wellington. I was well acquainted with how the navy worked at all levels. It has been more than 12 years since I hung up my uniform, but my experiences compel me to say that the selective writing offered by Hager in his article does not give an accurate picture of either my good friend Admiral Steer nor of the navy as a whole.
I was a colleague of Jack Steer, and we served at sea together. Throughout his career, he was an honourable and thoroughly professional officer. You will get the same view from everyone who served with him. That he rose to the rank of rear admiral and spent his final years in two of the highest military positions in the service of his country speaks volumes about his abilities. Impugning the personal reputation of someone like this should not be undertaken lightly. The fact that Hager continues to drag up issues well in the past says more about Hager than it does about Jack.
Hager maligns the treatment of women in the navy. While I never served at sea with women, I worked with women throughout my career. In my view, our women were always valued. Even before they went to sea, their contribution across the navy was highly regarded. In the 1990s, what I observed was a navy that bent over backwards to
mark. The rules governing the opening of bars and the consumption of alcohol on the naval base are far stricter than you will find in any RSA, or any sports or social club. The navy now also bans drinking alcohol at sea. The person responsible for making this change was none other than Jack Steer.
It is somewhat ironic that immediately after the Hager article you have a two-page photograph showing around 30 rugby players and officials, every one with a beer in his hand. Nowhere in the accompanying article does it refer to an “alcohol culture”. COMMODORE ALAN PECK ONZM RNZN (RETIRED), LOWER HUTT • Nicky Hager based the article on interviews with a range of current and former defence personnel. All worked at NZDF in the years since Peck left. The article noted useful efforts by NZDF to reduce sexual violence. The problem raised by staff is that when abuse has occurred, the top brass either wouldn’t take action or tried to shut down the victims. – Editor