New Zealand Defence Force's estate crumbling and in dire need of updating

New Zealand Defence Force's estate crumbling and in dire need of updating

The New Zealand Defence Force say much of their estate – or the camps, buildings and military bases that house the defence force – is old and outdated.

$600 million worth of the estate has less than a decade's shelf life left while 78 per cent has less than 30 years remaining.

Meanwhile, Head of Defence Estate and Infrastructure Phil Gurnsey said they had a backlog of $80 million worth of maintenance work to undertake.

He said it was because of under-investment in the defence estate for the last 20 to 30 years, where some of the buildings date back to World War I.

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It was reported in October last year that soldiers at Burnham military camp in Canterbury were restricted to two-minute showers following an E.coli scare believed to be caused by crumbling infrastructure.

Minister of Defence Ron Mark is aware of the issues the estate was facing and updating the facilities is at the top of his list of priorities, he said.

The previous government created the Defence Estate Regeneration Plan to manage the estate with an investment of $1.7 billion over 15 years until 2030, which included a health and wellbeing precinct at Whenuapai and a mounting base at Waiouru.

Auckland's Devonport Naval Base would get a multi-storey car park and office building, as well as "small boat storage" and wash down areas and ship loading areas while at Burnham, a health and rehabilitation centre, various upgrades to communications and electrical network and storage facilities were planned.

A decision was taken in 2018 to review this plan as Mark believed the previous Government had not fully appropriated the funds.

"It required Defence to seek funding each year on a budget-by-budget basis. I will be refreshing our plans and approach to the Defence Estate ... with a focus on both immediate and long-term needs."

He said the original plan was an important reminder about the much-needed investment.

"This was brought home to me when I first visited Burnham Military Camp and saw that my old barracks were the same as they were when I was living in them, it was the same in Waiouru.

"Young people joining the Defence Force have higher expectations of where they're accommodated, if we are to attract and retain talented young people, then we must do better."

National's defence spokesman Mark Mitchell said he didn't believe Labour was "fully committed to the plan" as historically, they always looked to make cuts in defence.

He said in the last general election Labour said they would be looking at defence to make cuts, which he believed would make it hard for Mark.

An NZDF spokesman confirmed their defence and infrastructure team was currently working on a refresh of the plan.

However, Mark said they needed to ensure the investment was smart.

"We don't want to be putting millions of dollars into something that might be not be optimised for the future.

"We are facing some big challenges in the estate. But, I don't want to rush into it blindly.

"I'm considering my options, but rest assured this is very much at the top of my thinking," Mark said.

The defence estate also included operational and planned maintenance work on water, roads and airstrips.

Gurnsey welcomed the plan to inject more money into the defence estate.

The NZDF spokesman confirmed the level of investment had fallen short of what was required to keep their estate updated.

He said despite this, they continued to deliver new facilities at camps and bases.

"Access to improved living, working and training facilities is expected to significantly assist recruitment and retention of personnel."

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