The New Zealand Defence Force is reviewing its multi-terrain camouflage uniforms for the second time after spending $13.6 million on the kit six years ago.
This review came about as hundreds of complaints were received highlighting defects with the uniform and stating the material was not fit for purpose. It has caused the Defence Force to look at updating the uniform for the second time since it was brought into service, having spent $21,000 so far on samples and trial garments.
A Defence Force spokesman said from January 2017 to January 2019, there were 716 reports of the defect and unfit material received for the uniform. This included manufacturing faults, failure of components, excessive wearing and operating environment problems.
The multi-terrain camouflage uniform is worn by all ranks within the army and by Defence Force personnel deployed on operations. The spokesman said the review would look at the functionality of pockets and protective elements, such as knee pads. Samples and trial garments would focus on the combat jacket, fleece liner, wet-weather jacket and trousers.
The Defence Force said the review work started in 2018, in line with routine uniform updates, and the design had already been updated in 2015.
“As part of normal clothing issues, elements of the MCU layered clothing system will be progressively updated in coming years.”
When Defence Minister Ron Mark was asked to comment on the current state of the uniform and how it was being considered for an update, he said he was glad the Defence Force was looking at a range of options.
“I’m yet to receive a brief on this so am unable to comment further at this time.”
In 2016, Mark issued a press release when he was in Opposition stating he was aware of problems with the uniform and while the pattern was fantastic, he didn’t understand why the uniforms were made overseas.
“Why is it that the Australian defence minister can stipulate ‘Made in Australia’ for their kit, but National refuses to do the same for ours?”
In 2013, Private Marshall Rankin, from 1 RNZIR, climbs through the monkey bars, putting the then-new uniform to the test. He said at the time NZ First would rather support jobs in Levin, with Swazi, then funnel the $13.6m the project cost to an Australian firm owned by the group behind Bunnings.
The Defence Force spokesman said it had a range of uniforms that could support its operations on land, at sea and in the air.
“Reviewing and issuing updated uniforms is the routine business for [the Defence Force].”
To update the uniform, the spokesman said the Defence Force worked with a group to review fit, form and function of the uniform to ensure it remained relevant and cost-effective.
“Changes to uniforms incorporate input from the industry on the technology and material they can supply, from our close foreign military partners, and from [Defence Force] uniform users.”