Hon Ron Mark - One Year in Government

 

 

Minister of Defence and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs are jobs I’ve coveted, and I feel extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to do both roles in this Coalition Government.

This year, we’ve hit the ground running, putting the right strategic policy in place in order to lay the foundations for the bigger decisions around budgets, capability plans and immediate capability deficiencies.

The year started with big wins for the Defence and Veterans portfolios in Budget 2018, totalling $409m in new operating funding over four years, and we’ve signed off around $2.8b in capital expenditure.

This is a ringing endorsement for the Defence Force from the Government.  National said that we’d strip Defence of funding to pay for promises elsewhere. This year, we gave them more support.

The Strategic Defence Policy Statement was released in July and introduced new elements to New Zealand’s Defence policy settings, including a new set of Defence policy principles to take account of the changes in the global strategic environment since the 2016 Defence White Paper and ensure alignment with the Coalition Government’s priorities.

On top of this, the purchase of four P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft to replace the aging six P-3K2 Orion’s, and the acquisition of the dive and hydrographic ship Manawanui, will ensure the Defence Force can continue to deliver the country’s maritime surveillance, resource protection, humanitarian and disaster response around New Zealand and across the South Pacific.

But that’s not all. In the Veterans’ space, we launched the new Veterans’ Rehabilitation Strategy, which will help provide better pathways to recovery for our veterans, and the Patterson report, which delivered a critique the Veterans Support Act 2014 to ensure it is operating effectively.

One of the most satisfying and emotional moments I’ve had as Minister for Veterans was the bringing home of the bodies of our fallen as part of the Te Auraki project. The project was aimed at the repatriation of those who had died overseas after 1955, but, due to bad policy, had not been brought home. They are now at rest in their home country.

The Defence Force is a key tool with which the Government can help nations and communities. Whether it be through responding to natural disasters, helping protect fisheries and natural resources, or at the sharper end, contributing to coalition and peace support operations. After just one year in Government, we’re well on our way to realising New Zealand First’s vision of world-class, well-equipped and full-spectrum Defence Force.

 

 

 

 

Ron.Mark@parliament.govt.nz

 

 

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