Job losses at Dunedin army base possible

Job losses at the New Zealand Defence Force army base in Dunedin are being considered as part of a South Island battalion merger.

The Fourth Otago and Southland Battalion Group (4 O'South) will be amalgamated with the Second Canterbury, Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast Battalion Group on December 7.

The new unit will be known as the 2/4 Battalion of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, of which the yet-to-be-created Otago and Southland company will be a sub-unit.

NZDF land component commander Brigadier Mark Wheeler said the change would bring a reduction in the number of civilian staff within Otago, of which there were five in Dunedin.

"How this occurs is still under consideration," he said.

The move to amalgamated headquarters was also likely to lead to fewer regular force staff in Dunedin, he said.

"These changes require less regular force staff in the three new amalgamated headquarters but this is being achieved through reassignment within the normal posting process. For Otago the number of soldiers being trained is unlikely to change significantly," Brig Wheeler said.

Battalion mergers throughout the country were part of changes outlined in the Defence White Paper of 2010, which aimed to save the NZDF up to $400 million, to be reinvested in the future.

Nationally, reserve units were being more closely aligned, and in some cases integrated, with regular force army units.

Six existing territorial force battalion groups were being reorganised into three infantry battalions, responsible for generating forces capable of operational deployment.

"The changes provide greater sustainability and flexibility, and ensure the territorial force is able to contribute more effectively to the delivery of NZDF outputs," Brig Wheeler said.

He said the NZDF was committed to maintaining a presence in all existing territorial force locations as well as the historic relationship between reserve forces and the wider community.

"Facilities currently used by 4 O'South will still be used after the amalgamation, although there may be further consideration around the consolidation of defence facilities within each geographic region," he said.

Battalions would continue to train collectively and each would be aligned to a regular force unit, enabling more comprehensive training with the option of supplementing units deployed on operations and exercises, Brig Wheeler said.

"It is anticipated the amalgamation will ensure reserve forces are better prepared to integrate into regular force units, resulting in greater numbers of well-trained personnel able to deploy at short notice. This will allow for a more seamless transition of personnel between a full and part-time military and civilian workforce," he said.

-rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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