Staff shortages – not lack of need – is why the Navy’s inshore patrol vessels are not being put to sea, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says.
“Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee is deliberately misleading New Zealand in suggesting otherwise. Half of the new fleet has languished at port and have not gone to sea for years.
“Year after year Parliament’s Defence Select Committee has been told the Navy can’t put many of its inshore patrol vessels to sea because it doesn’t have skilled personnel to staff them.
“The problem goes back to 2012 when National’s civilianisation programme saw an unprecedented attrition in the Navy of 23 per cent. It takes years to replace skilled personnel. The Select Committee was official advised again this year that it would be 16 years before the Navy regained the capabilities it had when Labour left office in 2008.
“The inshore patrol fleet was commissioned after a 2001 Maritime Forces review said that the vessels were needed for fisheries protection, border control, conservation support, and search and rescue.
“These needs still exist and this year Customs and Police confirmed that Defence was unable to provide the resources they needed to carry out these roles.
“Gerry Brownlee knows these facts and is therefore being dishonest in saying that the patrol vessels are not being used because they are not needed.
“When the Navy fails to meet its own sea day targets year after year, National has responded not be addressing the critical skills shortages but by reducing the targets.
“Gerry Brownlee is arrogant and out-of-touch. It’s time the Government put in charge of Defence a minister who shows some interest in the portfolio and a commitment to our armed forces being able to carry out the roles the country needs it to,” Phil Goff says.