Wellington New Zealand — New Zealand’s Defence Force (NZDF) has done relatively well with only a slight reduction in its overall budget for 2012-2013, according to released budget figures.
As usual, the Army takes the largest slice of the overall 2.9 billion New Zealand dollar ($2.2 billion) defense budget, down from 2.91 billion New Zealand dollars from the previous year. Last year, the Army’s budget was 832 million New Zealand dollars and this year rises to 845 million New Zealand dollars.
However, the Royal New Zealand Air Force enjoys a more than 5 percent budget increase, from 670 million New Zealand dollars to 790 million, while the Royal New Zealand Navy saw its funding fall by more than 4 percent, to 6.62 billion New Zealand dollars.
Although the overall defense budget has diminished slightly, most NZDF capabilities will enjoy more funding.
Only a few capabilities have had their funds cut, including the budget for land combat forces, reduced by 3 million New Zealand dollars to 362 million.
The appropriation for the Secret Intelligence Service has been significantly reduced, by 4 million New Zealand dollars to 37 million.
Among the capabilities with more funding is the awkwardly named Airborne Surveillance and Response Force of six P-3K Orions — currently being upgraded to P-3K2 standard — with a jump from 165 million to 178 million New Zealand dollars. Funding for the Navy’s patrol force, consisting of two offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and four inshore patrol vessels (IPVs), increases from 129 million New Zealand dollars to almost 137 million.
But more money doesn’t always mean more activity. Last year, the IPV fleet fell almost 200 days short of mission availability days — only 847 of the targeted 1,038 — and for the new fiscal year that target has been reduced to 749 mission available days.
In practical terms, this means it is likely that one or even two of the four IPVs will be spending more time alongside, unavailable for tasking or days at sea.
Similarly, although the budget for the Air Force’s helicopters, with NH90s and A109s replacing Iroquois and Sioux, has expanded by no less than 75 percent, it will be some time before the new helicopters are fully operational, although the Navy has already made more than 100 proving flights with the A109 to and from its OPVs.
Appropriations for the Ministry of Defence include 160 million New Zealand dollars for “the purchase, modification, or refurbishment of major items of defence equipment” for the NZDF.
Not least, the Government Communications Security Bureau enjoys a funding hike from 57 million New Zealand dollars to 64 million.