De­fence build­ings old and out­dated, min­is­ter ad­mits

Sunday Star-Times - - News -

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.

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