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Govt looks for new jobs for Defence Force

Published: 8:58PM Sunday April 21, 2013 Source: ONE News

The Government is looking for new jobs for the Defence Force as the mission in Afghanistan draws to a close.

The last contingent of personnel to serve in Afghanistan landed back in the country yesterday. Just 27 staff, due back in May, remain in the Bamiyan Province.

But now the Government has to keep almost 9000 full time soldiers, sailors and airmen interested in the job and needs to find some replacement action overseas.

It is focusing on bolstering the number of Kiwis in the United Nations Peace Keeping Corps, beyond the current 15 troops.

"We've always had a very involved role with peace keeping and we're actually doing a review at the moment to see where that might take us in the future," Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman told TV ONE's Q A.

"But the UN have indicated that there will be increasing demand for peace keeping deployments."

And the new Army chief, Major General Dave Gawn, has already got some hotspots in his sights.

"There is certainly a significant area of concern in the Middle East and across the Levant into Africa and I think if we look at that area in particular there is certainly a lot of work in the future that the international community have to do," he told Q A.

Labour is also keen to see New Zealand push for more peace keeping roles.

"There's much that we could be doing as part of the United Nations not to exhaust our people but to get them the chance to use their skills in the field on something that is to the benefit of humanity," Defence spokesperson Phil Goff said.

New Zealand's bid for a seat on the UN's Security Council in 2015 is also proving a good incentive for the Government to pursue peace keeping opportunities.

If its intentions are to be taken seriously it will need to commit more than just its fair share of troops to international missions.

However, former associate Defence Minister and serving reservist, Heather Roy, is urging the Government not to lose sight of the military's main role.

"The challenges are going to be maintaining those combat roles and those operational roles," she said.

"It might be peace keeping but we still need to train people to be able to cope in those combat situations."

The Government's review of its UN commitments should be completed by the end of May.