Cost-cutting at the Defence Force has not compromised the safety of New Zealand's frontline troops in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says, following the leak of a report critical of the training some personnel received.
The report, obtained by the Herald, was a review of the training given to the "Crib 20" rotation of troops before it left New Zealand for Bamiyan early last year. The contingent lost five members in separate firefight and bomb attacks last August.
Labour Party defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway has called on Dr Coleman to give an assurance that budget constraints had not affected training and placed lives at risk.
But Dr Coleman said it was "mischievous for Labour to suggest that funding was a factor in pre-deployment training and incorrect for Labour to say funding has compromised troop safety in Afghanistan".
"New Zealand efforts in Afghanistan have been well funded."
Dr Coleman said the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan was "well trained and achieves excellent results in a difficult operating environment".
The critical report was just one of 23 evaluations, conducted during training before the Crib 20 rotation left for Afghanistan, which contributed to a final training report.
"There was nothing unusual or different about this process, which has been applied on all rotations to help achieve the highest standards. I have been assured by the NZDF that any gaps identified were addressed before the Crib took operational responsibility," said Dr Coleman.
The Defence Force confirmed last week that the report is being considered as part of the court of inquiry investigation into August's deaths.
The report has emerged just two months after a separate report linking the fatal Anzac Day helicopter crash three years ago to the Defence Force's reluctance to pay for hotel rooms for crew members.
Pressure to rein in costs and subsequent lack of movement in pay has also been cited as a contributor to personnel shortages in the Navy, which increasingly relies on Australians to crew its ships.