In the quest to combat a significant surge in attrition within the armed forces, the Government has earmarked an expenditure exceeding $400 million over the next four years to augment the remuneration of defense personnel.
Following an extensive sojourn to London to witness the King’s Coronation, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins returned to Wellington on Monday to deliver a pre-Budget declaration concerning defense expenditure.
Hipkins contended that the current compensation bestowed upon defense personnel was characterized by an inherent “inequity” and was contributing to the escalating attrition rates.
“It also jeopardizes our capacity to undertake imperative deployments while concurrently responding to exigencies such as Cyclone Gabrielle,” remarked Hipkins. The Defense Force has witnessed a staggering 30% decline in its uniformed workforce over the course of two years, an outcome exacerbated by the austere labor market conditions in the wake of the pandemic. The emoluments received by many personnel remain considerably subpar in comparison to their counterparts in the private sector, with most defense occupations experiencing a deficit of at least 5% relative to their civilian equivalents, and in some instances, as high as 18%.
The comprehensive allocation earmarked for defense in the upcoming Budget on May 18 encompasses $243 million designated for defense assets and infrastructure, as previously reported by The Post earlier in the day. In addition, a substantial sum of $419 million is earmarked for remunerations, and an additional $85 million is designated for the improvement of residential facilities on defense installations.
The $243 million apportioned by the Government for capital expenditure within the defense sphere will be allocated towards enhancements to the navy’s pair of frigates, which have recently undergone significant refurbishments. It will also encompass the modernization of 43 recently acquired Bushmaster vehicles and the establishment of a novel refueling facility at the Ohakea air force base.
The $85 million reserved for housing will facilitate the construction of up to 50 novel edifices at the Waiouru army base, alongside a “pilot” initiative for the renovation of six residences at Burnham and seven abodes at the Linton and Ohakea bases. These new constructions at Waiouru will eventually be transferred to the stewardship of the local iwi, Ngāti Rangi, as part of a settlement agreement forged with the iwi in 2019, subsequently being leased back to the Defense Force.
Defense Minister Andrew Little, who stood alongside Hipkins during the announcement, underscored the dilapidated state of defense housing, emphasizing the importance of affording support to New Zealand Defence Force personnel in the execution of their duties.
The $419 million boost in defense remunerations over the span of four years effectively augments the Defense Force’s annual wage expenditure, initially increasing it by 10%.