Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Scrapping of military bands a 'national scandal'

The 5WWCT Battalion Pipes and Drums Territorial Force Military Band based in Wanganui could be disbanded. Photo / supplied
The 5WWCT Battalion Pipes and Drums Territorial Force Military Band based in Wanganui could be disbanded. Photo / supplied

The scrapping of New Zealand's military bands for relatively meagre savings is a "national scandal", says the secretary of New Zealand's oldest band.

The Defence Force plans to cut funding for seven out of ten military bands by the end of June, and expects to save $520,000 a year.

Band of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery secretary Bob Davis said the timing for the cuts was poor because military bands would be in demand for major events in the next few years - the World War 1centennial and the 75th commemoration of World War 2.

A Defence Force review had initially aimed to make savings of $3 million a year from a budget of $5.9 million for military musicians, but eventually settled for savings of $520,000 a year.

Mr Davis believed the savings were closer to $300,000 a year because three full-time bandmasters were soon expected to leave, and not be replaced.

"I think it is a very sad day for New Zealand. It is the axing of seventy per cent of our bands for absolutely miniscule savings."

He expected his 148 year-old military band to struggle, but it would survive because it was also backed by a charitable group. The other six bands were not so lucky, he said.

Three remaining bands - The Navy Regular Force Band, based at Devonport, the Air Force Territorial Force band, based in Wellington, and the Army Regular Force Band, based at Burnham, will provide music for events across the country.

Mr Davis said these groups would be stretched to cover all the events that required military bands.

Labour MP Phil Goff, who witnessed the artillery band perform for Anzac Day in his Mt Roskill electorate, said the Government should reconsider its decision: "The money they will save by closing the bands down is absolute peanuts ... In effect we are losing seventy per cent of our military bands to achieve a five per cent saving on the current budget for all the bands."

- NZ Herald

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