26 Jan 2010

Public to be more informed about SAS activities

8:30 pm on 26 January 2010

The public will be hearing more in future about the movements of elite SAS troops as the New Zealand Government moves to be more open about deployments overseas.

Prime Minister John Key and Defence Force chief Jerry Mateparae held a media conference at Parliament on Tuesday to announce the change in policy.

The move follows the publication of news stories and photographs last week showing members of the Special Air Services at the scene of a deadly attack in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

SAS operations are treated with secrecy, but Mr Key says information will be disclosed, so long as it does not threaten the safety of personnel.

Lieutenant General Mateparae says it is fair the public should know what members of the Defence Force are doing on their behalf, and members of the SAS have been told about the change.

"They and I believe that it is a fair comment that New Zealanders should know what they're doing ... Just the nature of it, and the depth of the comment, will be measured."

In relation to the current deployment in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Mateparae says the SAS has been providing support and training to Afghanistan troops and accompanying them on operations.

However, he says the New Zealanders have not fired any shots in anger.

Lieutenant General Mateparae says SAS member and Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata, whose photo was published last week, has been told to take more care to protect his identity.

Corporal Apiata had his helmet off when the photo was taken, and his identification is seen as a security lapse.