Defence Minister Ron Mark is defending using military aircraft to get to and from home.
Source: 1 NEWS
Mr Mark has provided 1 NEWS with a list of all the New Zealand Defence Force flights he has taken to and from Masterton.
A spokesman said it’s cheaper for him to take the flights than take Crown car to Defence Force airports. He said he has also declined to take some flights because of “the optics”.
In October Mr Mark hopped on a B200 flight from his home to Woodbourne airbase – and then flew back again – as part of an official visit to watch a military exercise.
And then in December he flew to and from Masterton to Waiouru to watch a military graduation on an NH90 helicopter.
This is an incredibly inappropriate use of Defence resources”
National’s Defence spokesman Mark Mitchell
National’s Defence spokesman Mark Mitchell says Mr Mark has some serious questions to answer over what appears to be totally inappropriate use of NZDF aircraft.
“Official Information shows Air Force NH-90 helicopters and a B200 King Air aircraft have repeatedly been diverted to Mr Mark’s hometown, Masterton, apparently to ferry the minister from his home to events around the country and back again,” Mr Mitchell said.
“There is no Royal New Zealand Air Force base in Masterton, which suggests the aircraft are being sent from Ohakea Air Base for the Minister’s personal convenience,” he said.
“Mr Mark has even used an NH90 to travel from Masterton to Waiouru and back in the same day – a three hour trip each way by car.
“Why did he not save the taxpayer the cost and the NZDF the time and use a much cheaper Crown car instead? It’s happening so regularly locals are asking questions about it,” Mr Mitchell said.
“At a time when the Defence Force is being asked to do more than ever before, while also being asked to tighten its belt and brace for a funding cut it is appalling that the Minister of Defence is using the Air Force as a personal taxi service.”
Mr Mitchell said he wants to know the Minister has either requested this service, or refused to decline it, as he would have known there is no way the flying hours, fuel and cost could be justified.
“This is an incredibly inappropriate use of Defence resources, and I am sure the public would be interested to know why the Minister is opting to use already stretched Defence assets rather than the Ministerial Crown Cars that are available to him.
“Mr Mark needs to front and explain why he thinks his personal convenience is the most appropriate use of taxpayer funded defence resources,” Mr Mitchell said.