4 Jul 2016

Questions remain over $20bn defence spending

11:11 am on 4 July 2016

Taxpayers are being warned if they want to maintain the Defence Force's current capabilities they'll have to cough up more money.

The government last month outlined its plans to spend $20 billion over 15 years to upgrade existing military assets.

The HMNZS Te Kaha out at sea with a helicopter flying above

Photo: NZDF

The Defence Force's 20-year-old Anzac frigates and 50-year-old C130 Hercules and P3 Orion planes all need replacing in the foreseeable future.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Mark Thomson said the cost would be a modest increase in New Zealand's defence commitment.

"The cost of fielding modern military capability is increasing more quickly than inflation."

All countries faced the same issue, he said.

"Unless more money is forthcoming hard decisions have to be made."

08062016 Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King. Defence White Paper Launch at Parliment in Wellington. LTGEN Tim Keating, Chief of Defence Force New Zealand speaks.

LTGEN Tim Keating, Chief of Defence Force New Zealand speaks at the White Paper launch at Parliament. Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King

$20bn should be enough to buy everything the government wants, but it was difficult to tell without knowing exactly what the replacement options were.

Victoria University's Centre for Strategic Studies director David Capie said questions remained over what the replacement ships and planes will be.

Another striking feature of the White Paper was an increased focus on New Zealand's immediate neighbourhood, he said.

"Obviously the Pacific was important in the 2010 White Paper and it's important in this one.

"The thing that's quite different is the emphasis on the Southern Oceans and the Antarctic, that gets a lot more focus than it did last time."

That was partly because of public support for the focus of Antarctica, and partly due to increased international interest in Antarctica and fishing in the Southern Ocean.

Plans to add ice strengthening to a new fleet tanker and off-shore patrol vessel would allow for greater naval support further south, Dr Capie said.

Canterbury University professor Anne-Marie Brady said United States, Australia and Great Britain had become less dominant in Antarctica, while other countries have shown an increasing interest.

"Korea, China and India, because their economies have been growing and they're becoming more ambitious and wanting to take more of an international role, they have been expanding their interests in Antarctica."

Russia was also showing an renewed interest in the area, she said.

These issues and more will be discussed in a one day symposium on the White Paper in Wellington today.

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