A re-elected National Government would keep all current military bases open and operational, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says.

On the campaign trail with Prime Minister John Key in Palmerston North this afternoon, Dr Coleman said Defence Force camps and bases played "a crucial role in New Zealand's regional economies".

Dr Coleman underlined National's ongoing commitment to defence including recent decisions to spend over $1 billion on new naval helicopters, upgraded frigate combat systems, new army vehicles, an SAS training facility and a new pilot training programme.

The idea of merging and shutting some bases was raised in a defence white paper prepared previously for the National Government.


"We looked at that," Dr Coleman said.

"What we realised through the Christchurch earthquake experience is that it's very important to enable the Defence Force to be able to deploy from anywhere in the country.

"After that experience we looked at the footprint and said this is actually what's needed right across the country especially right here in the Manawatu it became clear that it made sense to keep Ohakea and Linton with their existing footprint."

Dr Coleman said Labour had not committed to keeping all defence bases open.

"They have also rejected a lot of the new capability upgrades that we have already said will happen so they're opposed to the new naval helicopters, they don't want new missiles on our frigate systems upgrades."

Dr Coleman said the Green Party which would have influence in any Labour led Government had said they would be getting rid of the frigates "and they want a defence force that's not a professionalised defence force, it's based on civilians and something they're calling active non-resistance".

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor, who hopes to take the seat for National from Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway, said National's commitment would be of comfort to personnel at the nearby Ohakea airforce and Linton army bases.

"It's good for the huge number of people who work in the defence sector in this city and the surrounding areas. What they want is certainty to know that their jobs are going to be here long term."