NZ military bases under threat

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion taxis into Whenuapai air base. PHOTO: NZME
A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion taxis into Whenuapai air base. PHOTO: NZME
The country's largest air base faces an uncertain future as it comes up against urban sprawl and a noise complaint from a developer, Defence Minister Ron Mark says.

The Government has announced the terms of a sweeping review of all New Zealand Defence Force bases and land across the country, describing the estate as "run down and outdated''.

The military is responsible for about 81,000ha, the third-most of any Crown body, but much of its overall shape has not changed drastically since World War 2.

The NZDF is now looking to create a plan for what the layout of its operations should look like by 2070.

It could lead to proposals to move some of the current nine bases and 58 NZDF-managed sites and buy or expand others.

Cabinet will announce its options in September next year.

Mr Mark pointed to the Whenuapai air base in western Auckland as an example of growing concern about a changing environment and a need for the NZDF to quickly adapt.

He said encroaching urban development around the once remote base was threatening the future of its operations.

"A property developer who has bought land right next to the base, which has been there for decades, is complaining that we run our engines at night or after dark,'' Mr Mark said.

The review would look at whether it was necessary to move Whenuapai and all other bases, build new facilities elsewhere or even whether one larger national super-base was needed, he said.

"The sooner we start that work the better, because building new bases and relocating old bases doesn't come cheap.''

Devonport Naval Base, in Auckland, needed to be reviewed against an increasing threat from climate change, Mr Mark said.

The Defence Force last year confirmed an investigation into the cost of moving its $100million-plus operations from the North Shore suburb.

Mr Mark said the Defence Force had been forced to tell Singapore it could not host a squadron of F-15 fighter jets because of a lack of proper air bases across the country, and had no room to weaponise New Zealand planes because houses were now being built too close to bases.

"What that has done is told us that our footprint is not right,'' he said.

For now, the Defence Force was putting money into repairing facilities.

The Government has increased the budget for that work until 2030 from $1.7 billion to $2.1 billion.

"Much of this defence infrastructure has fallen victim to deferred maintenance, budget cuts and shrinking government interest,'' Mr Mark said.

The Defence Force last year confirmed it would be moving Royal New Zealand Air Force No5 Squadron from Whenuapai to Ohakea as the Government replaced the ageing Orion fleet with four Boeing P-8A Poseidon patrol planes.

Whenuapai's airstrip is not large enough to allow the planes to operate at full capacity.


we need military bases in new Zealand / where if shifted will they go.........