A statement from former Defence Minister Max Bradford:
“Comments by Labour MP Phil Goff that the incoming Clark government in 2000 simply followed a decision by the outgoing National government in 1999 to purchase 102 LAV III armed personnel carriers (APC) is, at best, trifling with the truth” said Max Bradford, National’s Defence Minister in 1997-1999.
Mr Goff’s comments were made in response to criticism that the Labour government’s decision to commit over $750m to purchase the LAVs was foolhardy, given that only 11 have seen deployment since their purchase in 2002 (see RNZ report (1) below).
“In 1998, the National government made a decision to purchase only 35 LAVs, which was seen as sufficient at the time. The purchase included a number of LAVs as maintenance and recovery vehicles, so there were fewer than 35 available for combat purposes” said Mr Bradford.
“Although National decided in principle to 102 vehicles at the time, we had serious doubts that 102 were ever to be needed, hence the decision to buy only 35 as replacements for the M113 APCs. There was a serious need for other defence force equipment replacements ahead of the full LAV purchase. These included:
- a third frigate for the Navy, which never proceeded and only now are the implications being felt
- new helicopters to replace the 15 or so Iroquois, eventually replaced by 6 NH90s
- replacements for the A4 Skyhawks: the Clark government scrapped the air combat wing, to help pay for the 102 LAVs
- replacements for the then-aging Hercules, which only now is being considered
- replacement of the then VIP transport aircraft with 2 Boeing 757s
“When the Clark government announced the decision to buy 102 LAVs, there was considerable criticism at the time. Indeed, the purchase process was the subject of an Auditor-General Office thorough review and report to Parliament. The Auditor-General found serious shortcomings in Labour’s decision on the LAVs. Now Labour’s chickens coming home to roost”
“I am disappointed that Mr Goff should seek to shift the blame for a stupid Labour government decision in 2000 to proceed with the purchase of 102 LAVs, as the responsibility rests solely with the Clark government, not National. Certain very senior officers in the Army at the time have to share the responsibility for poor advice and a poor decision. We should be thankful that the problems within the hierarchy of the NZDF at the time have now been fixed and I trust the public can now rely on the integrity of the Defence Force to give the appropriate advice to the government today in a difficult international environment.”
“Today’s geopolitical landscape certainly isn’t the “incredibly benign strategic environment” that Helen Clark confidently stated in 2000 should apply to defence procurement decisions, so we must get the very best defence advice nowadays” concluded Mr Bradford.
Useful to have the other side of the story. Amazing only 11 LAVs have been deployed out of 105.
I recall at the time that people calculated it would take six months to a year to transport them all to another country, so it was obvious far too many were purchased.