Fifth seasprite jumps gun on 3rd frigate purchase

Defence Minister Max Bradford appears to be trying to force the next Labour government into buying a third frigate.

That’s according to Green Party Defence Spokesman Keith Locke.

Mr Locke today accused Mr Bradford of “jumping the gun” on purchase of a third frigate by announcing the navy will get a fifth Seasprite SH-2G helicopter.

“Mr Bradford claims the fifth Seasprite is needed for a three frigate navy, even though an incoming Labour-led government is unlikely to endorse a third ANZAC frigate,” Mr Locke said.

“The Leander frigate Wellington is being phased out, and the Canterbury won’t be far behind.

“The Seasprites are very expensive. According to Mr Bradford, the all-up cost of the fifth marine helicopter is $63 million plus GST. Millions more will be spent annually on operating the helicopter.

“Oddly, Mr Bradford claims that this $63 million ‘will be funded entirely from the existing Defence budget’.

“I have written to Mr Bradford about this because it seems to be a case of Budget duplicity, unless the Defence Force has suddenly saved $63 million since the Budget Estimates were approved a short time ago.

“Under Vote Defence Part A2, there is only mention of spending for ‘four Seasprite maritime helicopters’. If a fifth Seasprite was planned why wasn’t it mentioned and costed in the Budget.

“The millions wasted on the extra Seasprite would be better spent in social and environmental areas. The whole frigate project is a costly white elephant. Why add to the extravagance,” said Mr Locke.