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Ron makes mark on Cabinet

New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark takes on two ministerial portfolios. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN

CHELSEA BOYLE

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Carterton’s Ron Mark has been named as the country’s Minister of Defence.

The former soldier and New Zealand First deputy leader will also be the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

Mr Mark said it was still sinking in – “It’s a bit surreal”.

He had been getting congratulatory messages from across the country and abroad, many from people he served with in the Middle East and retired veterans, he said.

“I guess this one’s for them.”

He had come a long way from the 16-year-old who marched into Waiouru as a cadet.

“It’s a big responsibility and I can’t think of a higher privilege and honour as a returned serviceman myself.”

Service personnel do outstanding work internationally, most of it never recognised, Mr Mark said.

He was focussed ensuring they had what they needed in terms of machinery, equipment and facilities, he said.

“It is very much about looking after our service personnel that we train, that we lead and that we deploy.”

And to look after them when they have returned “carrying with them the issues that are a direct result of their service”.

“We’ve had some tough times in opposition in terms of trying to convince governments that the decision they were making were not the right decisions.”

It was no secret he had been highly critical of procurement decisions made in the past and reorganisations that have occurred, he said.

“I have been on occasion upset by the level of support that’s been given to junior ranks in the service, in terms of pay and conditions.”

But now they had the responsibility, he said.

“Now we’re in the driver’s seat.”

He was conscious they were spending taxpayer’s money so they needed to be sure they got procurement decisions right in the future.

“Our Defence Force has for many years not had a good track record in that respect.”

Prime Minister-designate Jacinda Ardern announced the portfolios yesterday and said she was excited by how her executive would tackle the challenges this country faced.

“The allocation of portfolios shows how the government I lead will be focused on making a difference for all New Zealanders, no matter where they live.

“New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters will be my Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“He brings a wealth of experience to both roles and I look forward to working closely with him.”

 

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