Sept. 17, 2013 defense-aerospace.com
(Source: Xinhua; published Sept. 17, 2013)
Gov't Under Fire As New Zealand Military Chief Leaves Office Under Cloud
WELLINGTON, New Zealand --- The head of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is to leave office, the government confirmed Tuesday, amid accusations that the country's most senior military officer was being used as a scapegoat for failed policies.
The government's unannounced decision not to reappoint Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones was an attempt to scapegoat him for multiple failures, defence spokesperson for the main opposition Labor Party, Phil Goff, said.
A safety review of the NZDF completed this month had indicated that government cost cutting, restructuring and high attrition were all factors in the poor safety record of the NZDF, he said in a statement.
The latest report also found that up to 5 percent of all navy lifejackets did not have the required inflation devices attached to them, he said.
However, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said in a statement that Jones' "retirement" was completely unrelated to the health and safety review, adding "Sadly there were eight accidental deaths in defense over the past five years, and eight deaths in the five years prior to that period. One death is one too many."
Jones was appointed as the country's top military officer in January 2011 on a three-year contract and was instructed by the government to cut the defense budget by 400 million NZ dollars (326.79 million U.S. dollars).
In July, the NZDF was convicted in court on breaches of the country's workplace health and safety laws regarding the death of a soldier during a training exercise in September last year.
As a government entity, the NZDF could not be fined on the charge, which would normally carry a penalty of up to 250,000 NZ dollars.