Defence Minister Ron Mark is standing by the military spend-up amid the economic havoc wrought by coronavirus.
He says the spending, the most since the depths of the Cold War, is required because climate change will place new demands on the NZ Defence Force (NZDF).
Billions have already been committed to new equipment such as the four P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft set to replace the P-3 Orions.
After locking in five new Super Hercules to replace the Air Force's aged transport fleet, Minister Mark said his top priority is sorting out new armoured vehicles for the Army.
“We looked at our relationship with the Pacific ... we then looked at one thing that no one wanted to talk about, and this is my doing: climate change.”
The Minister said climate change meant more humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Pacific involving the NZDF.
“There are more of them, and they’re concurrent. For them we need Hercs ... we need resupply ships.''
A year ago, diving support and hydrographic survey vessel HMNZS Manawanui was commissioned into service. The Navy said its missions could include initial approaches after a natural disaster before larger support ships arrive.
Those support ships include the brand new $500 million HMNZS Aotearoa, the Navy's largest-ever vessel, which will arrive in New Zealand shortly for commissioning after sailing from Korea, following Covid-related delays.
In justifying the spend, Minister Mark echoed the Strategic Defence Policy Statement he delivered nearly two years ago.
It emphasised New Zealand's responsibilities as a Pacific nation, and for the first time also discussed the impacts of climate change on global instability, for which Mark claimed credit.
The Defence Minister cited natural disasters such as the 2016 earthquake, where ships from the Canadian, American and Australian Navies were deployed to help with the aftermath, along with various Kiwi military assets, as further reason for sticking with the $20 billion spend.
“We identified that we dodged a bullet with Kaikoura. We only have one logistics multi-role vessel, HMNZS Canterbury. If it had been dry-docked, under refit, we would have been in serious, serious trouble.”
“We were lucky that our friends were here celebrating the 75th anniversary of our Navy, and they diverted their ships to Kaikoura to help out.”