Defence buildings old and outdated, minister admits
The New Zealand Defence Force says much of its estate – or the camps, buildings and military bases that house the military – is old and outdated.
$600 million worth of the estate has less than a decade’s shelf life left and 78 per cent has less than 30 years remaining. Some of the buildings date back to World War One.
Phil Gurnsey, the head of Defence Force Estate and Infrastructure said there was an $80m backlog of maintenance work needed.
He said this was the result of under-investment over the past 20 to 30 years.
It was reported in October last year that soldiers at Burnham military camp in Canterbury were restricted to two-minute showers following an E.coli scare believed to be caused by crumbling infrastructure.
Minister of Defence Ron Mark said he was aware of the issues and updating the facilities was a top priority.
The previous Government created the Defence Estate Regeneration Plan with an investment of $1.7 billion over 15 years until 2030, which included a health and wellbeing precinct at Whenuapai and a mounting base at Waiouru.
Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base would get a multi-storey car park and office building, as well as ‘‘small boat storage’’ and wash down areas and ship loading areas while at Burnham, a health and rehabilitation centre, various upgrades to communications and electrical network and storage facilities were planned.
However, a decision was taken in 2018 to review this plan as Mark believed the previous Government had not fully appropriated the funds.
‘‘It required Defence to seek funding each year on a budget-bybudget basis.
‘‘I will be refreshing our plans and approach to the defence estate . . . with a focus on both immediate and long-term needs.’’
He said the original plan was an important reminder about the much-needed investment.
‘‘This was brought home to me when I first visited Burnham Military Camp and saw that my old barracks were the same as they were when I was living in them, it was the same in Waiouru.
‘‘Young people joining the Defence Force have higher expectations of where they’re accommodated, if we are to attract and retain talented young people, then we must do better,’’ Mark said.
National’s defence spokesman, Mark Mitchell, doubted Labour was ‘‘fully committed to the plan’’ as historically, the party had always looked to make cuts in defence.
A Defence Force spokesman confirmed their defence and infrastructure team was currently working on a refresh of the plan.
However, Mark said the investment had to be smart.
‘‘We don’t want to be putting millions of dollars into something that might be not be optimised for the future.
‘‘We are facing some big challenges in the estate. But I don’t want to rush into it blindly.’’
The Defence Force spokesman confirmed the level of investment had fallen short of what was required to keep the properties updated.
Despite this, Defence continued to deliver new facilities at camps and bases.
‘‘Access to improved living, working and training facilities is expected to significantly assist recruitment and retention of personnel.’’
‘‘I saw that my old barracks were the same as they were when I was living in them, it was the same in Waiouru.’’ Ron Mark, Minister of Defence
The Vincent block at the Whenuapai air base is New Zealand’s first new barracks building since World War II. However, other Defence infrastructure dates back to the Great War.