“Labour has cemented New Zealand’s position as the weak link of the Pacific with today’s underwhelming Defence announcement,” says ACT’s Defence spokesperson Dr James McDowall.

“This Budget was Labour’s opportunity to put our Defence spending in line with our allies and protect us in a dramatically changing geopolitical environment. Instead, Labour chose to spend an extra 0.2 per cent, barely enough to cover the increase in fuel bill for the fleet.

“In fact, in real terms, operating Defence spending has fallen by $66m and most of the supposed “increase” is depreciation, going towards keeping old and barely adequate equipment working. As for capital expenditure, all this Budget featured was re-announcements of existing procurement.

“Our loyal and hardworking Defence force deserve every cent of the modest pay increase, sadly it won’t make up for the attrition, bad leadership from the Minister and deployments to stand at hotel doors.

“China now has a foothold in the Pacific. Labour agrees that the world is changing but they don’t know what to do.

“ACT says we should follow the NATO target and methodology. It would see $7.5 billion in extra capital expenditure over the next four years. This was in ACT’s Real Change Alternative Budget.

“The target of two per cent of GDP is what all of our traditional allies, including Australia, are committed to and would demonstrate the seriousness with which we take our defence obligations.

“This is the kind of valuable spending that Government should be doing, protecting our country and aligning us with our allies.”