Our military has lost 1600 automatic rifle magazines, and an inquiry into some of those missing weapon parts says they were "unaccountable losses" with no markings showing they were NZ Defence Force property.
A senior officer has recommended they be labelled in future "to help NZ Police identify NZDF magazines that have made their way into general circulation".
It is unknown whether this has happened. The Herald approached NZDF for comment on the issue 10 days ago and has received no response. The Minister for Defence, Peeni Henare, was asked for comment on Wednesday and has not replied.
An NZDF spokesman said the delay was because responsibility was "spread across a number of NZDF agencies and it takes time to get responses from them".
The type of magazines lost hold 30 bullets and were among those made illegal after the March 15, 2019 terror attack in Christchurch.
A Court of Inquiry into the missing magazines found "exceptionally poor" accounting practices for keeping track of what was held or issued at an "under-resourced" unit that had no system for personnel to record whether they had returned equipment.
The inquiry said it was "unlikely" the issue would arise again because of "improvements" that had been made - specifically, it outsourced the job to an external company.
But it also warned "logistics management and compliance issues" remained that meant the unit would "remain non compliant with NZ Army logistics policy and will likely continue to experience unaccountable equipment losses".
The Court of Inquiry report, released through the Official Information Act, said the magazines had been discovered missing after poor record-keeping was highlighted in 2019. When NZDF sought to deal with the issue by centralising management of its MARS-L rifle through Lockheed Martin New Zealand, it was discovered there were 125 magazines missing.
An internal investigation in early 2020 failed to find the missing magazines and a letter sent to staff previously posted to the unit didn't lead to any being returned.
The Court of Inquiry hearing in May 2020 heard evidence that - in addition to the 125 missing magazines - "1 (NZ) Brigade reported a deficiency of 1470 MARS-L magazines" in September 2019. The inquiry report said the additional missing equipment was outside its scope but "believes that there are wider issues to be considered".
The inquiry found two personnel responsible for equipment loans to staff and recruits "were not sufficiently resourced or empowered" to do their jobs. There was also "sufficient dysfunction within the unit HQ to cause a confusion of responsibilities" and that one of those responsible for oversight of frontline staff was unlikely to have had the qualifications or experience needed.
During the period the magazines were lost, one of the two working on the frontline had no experience in frontline logistics and was absent from the role for a period of time and no one filled in. The other person did not have the rank or training to do the job effectively.
The report found problems up the chain of command, with no record of a proper handover when the unit changed commanders and the lack of an accounting officer.
It also said support from headquarters and army logistics command was "not compliant with NZ Army policy" and was "grossly insufficient".
It found procedures at the unit "were of a very poor standard" and likely "the direct cause of the unit's inability to account" for the magazines. Loan documents used were not official, were not properly stored and lacked enough information to track down missing equipment.
Poor record-keeping, a lack of oversight of staff lending out equipment, poor procedures for tracking equipment on loan and the lack of markings identifying the magazines as belonging to NZDF were identified as behind the missing magazines.
Although there was meant to be support from Lockheed Martin NZ, the personnel overseeing the lending of equipment did not have written documentation setting out what was expected. As a result, they had "no understanding" of the contractor's responsibilities.
NZDF sought to fix the issues by contracting management to Lockheed Martin NZ, appointing a sergeant to take charge of the quartermaster's office and appointing a senior staff member as the unit's accounting officer.
At the time of the inquiry report, it noted the unit still didn't have the logistics staff needed to do the job.
It also recommended that NZDF should - as a senior officer recommended in 2019 - mark magazines as its property and include a unit identifier to track those lent out.
The lieutenant colonel who reviewed the inquiry report said there were issues from a "tactical through to strategic level".
He said the period of the losses came during a time when the unit lost its commanding officer, regimental sergeant major and when the executive officer and operations officer were moved out of its headquarters.
The lieutenant colonel said the management and structure of the unit was not part of the inquiry but "the dysfunctional nature of the headquarters was a major contributor to the lack of clear direction and support to non-existent logistics function within the unit".
The magazines were for the military's new MARS-L infantry weapon. MARS-L stands for "Modular Assault Rifle System - Light" and was introduced to NZDF in 2017. NZDF bought 9000 of the rifles as part of a $59 million deal to upgrade its weaponry.
• It was initially reported that 1700 magazines were missing. The correct number is 1600 missing magazines.