National is accusing Defence Minister Ron Mark of misusing his position by using the Air Force as a taxi service and getting helicopter rides to his home in the Wairarapa.

Former Defence Minister and National defence spokesman Mark Mitchell says
official information shows Air Force NH-90 helicopters and a B200 King Air aircraft have repeatedly been diverted to Mark's home town, Masterton, "apparently to ferry the minister from his home to events around the country and back again."

Mitchell said the flights were happening so often that locals were asking questions about it.

"There is no Royal New Zealand Air Force base in Masterton, which suggests the aircraft are being sent from Ohakea Air Base for the minister's personal convenience," said Mitchell.


"Mr Mark has even used an NH90 to travel from Masterton to Waiouru and back in the same day – a three-hour trip each way by car.

Defence Minister Ron Mark. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Defence Minister Ron Mark. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"Why did he not save the taxpayer the cost and the NZDF the time and use a much cheaper Crown car instead? It's happening so regularly locals are asking questions about it."

At a time when the Defence Force was being asked to do more than ever and also being asked to tighten its belt, it was appalling that the Minister of Defence was using the Air Force as a personal taxi service.

"I want to know why the minister has either requested this service, or refused to decline it, as he would have known there is no way the flying hours, fuel and cost could be justified.

"This is an incredibly inappropriate use of Defence resources."

Mark has issued a list of the flights he has taken and said he was acutely aware of the perceptions when taking NZDF flights.

Five flights are to or from Masterton.

"Each of the flights was taken to an official engagement. For two of the seven commitments I embarked and disembarked in Masterton. I live in Carterton.


"Please note one of these flights was a regular scheduled flight that would have departed with, or without me," Mark said.

"On several occasions I have declined NZDF's offer of transport.

"I wish to emphasise that none of these flights was for personal use. Please note that on a number of these flights I have been accompanied by NZDF officials, MPs from other parties, and/or media representatives. If at any point the Defence Force advises me that such travel is inappropriate or outside policy then I would naturally comply."

The list of flights released by Defence Minister Ron Mark.
The list of flights released by Defence Minister Ron Mark.

In the first term of John Key's National-led Government, Labour and the Green in Opposition criticised what they saw as the Government's excessive use of Air Force transport for Government ministers.

One time he used on Iroquois helicopter to get from Auckland to the V8 Supercar races in Hamilton and back in time for a black-tie dinner being attended by the Governor-General.

In 2011, the Air Force had allowed for 195 hours of VIP flying annually across three aircraft, the Boeing 757, 11-seater King Air planes and Iroquois helicopters but only 82 hours were used in 2010 and 32.2 hours used in 2009.