7 Nov 2010

PM says civilian access to SAS weapons 'unwise'

10:07 pm on 7 November 2010

Prime Minister John Key says he suspects it is unwise for civilians to have access to weaponry while on training sessions with elite SAS troops.

Mr Key has asked that protocols be established to clarify what is and is not appropriate when SAS troops interact with civilians.

Seventy executives from the private equity firm, Direct Capital, spent a day with the soldiers on 28 October at Papakura Military Camp.

The Defence Force describes the day as an interaction about enhancing leadership, culture and team dynamics.

But Mr Key says he also understands weapons were discharged at a firing range during the course.

He says while it is unusual for civilians to use military weapons, it is not unheard of.

But Mr Key suspects such use is unwise, and has asked the Defence Minister to put protocols in place.

Company expected to pay thousands

Direct Capital is expected to make a $35,000 donation for the opportunity to spend the day with the troops.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says the SAS is not being rented out, because the $35,000 donation will go to its charitable trust.

The Victoria Cross recipient, Willie Apiata, was among the troops.

It's understood a $500 per-head fee was negotiated for the exercise.

The executives were briefed on SAS culture, ethos and values and, in return, the soldiers are said to have learnt from Direct Capital and its portfolio companies.