Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Goff demands action on navy misbehaviour

Phil Goff. Photo / Natalie Slade
Phil Goff. Photo / Natalie Slade

Boozy behaviour by New Zealand sailors abroad is "not a good look" for the country and must be addressed, says Labour Party leader Phil Goff.

The Opposition leader has called for action after reports of drunken sailors shirtless and brawling in the main street of Port Vila during an April stopover.

The reports surfaced days after it was revealed that HMNZS Te Mana skipper John Butcher was relieved of his command, allegedly over rapidly downing several glasses of wine at a formal function in Vanuatu last month.

Speaking of the April incident, Mr Goff told the Herald he could recall nothing similar during his tenure as Defence Minister between 2005 and 2008.

"Our Defence Force are our ambassadors internationally and they're generally excellent for us, but we've got to take this sort of behaviour seriously. It's very clear that whatever the factors are, it's not a good look. The navy and the Defence Force has to address this."

The changes had to come from the senior ranks of the Defence Force, he said.

"What it demonstrates to me is that there's a need for re-emphasising programmes designed to ensure that young representatives of the Defence Force don't behave in a way that would put them at risk. It's particularly important for those ships visiting our neighbours, as we wouldn't look kindly on that behaviour on visits from other countries."

Defence Force spokesman Commander Phil Bradshaw said there was a "very comprehensive suite of tools" to deal with such behaviour, including a range of courses and training programmes.

"For those people who don't want to change their behaviour and don't match up, then we don't want to have them in our organisation any more."

Commander Bradshaw confirmed that Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Richard Rhys Jones had briefed Defence Minister Wayne Mapp on whether existing policies and training on alcohol were adequate.

The briefing looked at whether policies were "deep and wide enough, and is there anything more we can be doing" and more meetings were expected to be held.

Meanwhile, a press secretary for Dr Mapp rejected reported comments by Labour defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway that low morale from the "civilianisation" of 500 uniformed positions had contributed to a binge-drinking culture in the navy.

"The minister needs to take a long hard look at the process around civilianisation and be open to the idea that some of these events that have occurred over the last week or so may be linked," Mr Lees-Galloway told the Dominion Post last week.

Dr Mapp declined to personally respond but his press secretary said there was no link.

- NZ Herald

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