North & South - - Conversation -

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

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