MUST READ: NZ Military Getting Ready To Aid The Civil Power


IT WAS EASY to miss amidst the information overload of Lockdown at Level 4. A curiously thin news story, published by Stuff on 15 April, concerning “a routine military exercise” in South Auckland. The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) was keen to reassure people living in the area that the sound of gunfire, loud explosions and helicopters flying overhead were nothing to be concerned about. But, as is so often the case with NZDF media releases, that wasn’t the whole story – not by a long (and potentially deadly) shot.

Any government facing a crisis on the scale of the Covid-19 Pandemic will, at a pretty early stage in the proceedings, be briefed by their senior law enforcement and military advisers on how best to respond to a serious outbreak of civil disorder. For the likes of Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson this was likely to have been a sobering – and scary – experience.

The number of sworn police officers in New Zealand currently stands at around 10,000. The NZDF musters roughly the same number, 10,000, with a further 2,000 men and women in reserve. In other words, in a nation of just under 5 million, the state can call upon just 22,000 trained personnel to enforce its will. That’s one trained enforcer for every 227 citizens.

Obviously, the state’s best option, when faced with a serious outbreak of civil disorder, is to concentrate as many of its enforcers as possible at the scene. Equally obviously, those enforcers need to be trained and equipped to quell such disorder swiftly and decisively. To achieve this objective with a minimum of violence and injury, the first responders should ideally be police officers trained in crowd control – i.e. a “riot squad”.

This was the preferred option for maintaining law and order during the Springbok Tour protests of 1981, and it was highly successful. Only outside Eden Park on the final day of the Tour did the Police contemplate calling upon the military to aid the civil power. Armed naval personnel were mustered in readiness, but fortunately their services were not required. The “thin blue line” held.

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Of course the overwhelming majority of anti-Apartheid protesters were law-abiding members of the New Zealand middle-class, and the main co-ordinating body of the anti-tour movement, the Halt All Racist Tours organisation (HART) was officially committed to non-violent civil-disobedience. That being the case, the highly-trained “Red” and “Blue” riot squads, equipped with visored helmets, metal shields and long batons, were more than equal to the task of making sure the games went ahead. They were bested by the protesters only once – at Hamilton’s Rugby Park.

Serious civil disorder arising out of the prolonged imposition of the lockdown rules is, however, unlikely to be undertaken by idealistic protesters committed to non-violent action. One has only to take in the images now flooding out of the United States, of loud and aggressive Trump supporters openly flouting the social-distancing rules imposed by state governors and legislatures. At present, most (but not all) of these protesters are unarmed. Should that change, however, the potential for a calamitous  eruption of violence is all too real.

Now, New Zealanders are not Americans: as a people we are about “fairness” much more than we are about “liberty”. But, as the reaction to the Government’s attempts to institute a more rational system of controlling the possession and use of firearms has made clear, there is a vocal minority of New Zealanders who appear to have absorbed completely the “gun culture” of the United States and clearly intend to replicate it their own country. Socio-economically, these folk tend to be found running New Zealand’s small businesses and farms. Most of them are men, and an alarming number of them seem to have enormous difficulty coming to terms with the fact that New Zealand is led by a young, progressive, mother of one.

When that same young woman is telling these guys that they have to stay at home; that their small businesses must remain shut; and that they are not permitted to go hunting with their precious firearms; then there has to be a reasonable chance that at least some of them are going to take a leaf out of the play-book of Trump’s supporters in Michigan and Wisconsin and demand that the economy be “liberated” from the Lockdown. How big a step is it, after all, from the infamous placard declaring Jacinda to be “a pretty communist” and the one carried high by a Trump supporter proclaiming “Social Distancing = Communism”?

All these angry white men, itching to lock and load their guns and hit the streets in protest should, however, pause and think again about those military exercises in South Auckland. Because it’s a pretty safe bet that what’s being trained there in secret is a ready-reaction force. In the worst case scenario, when Police intervention has failed to persuade destructive, violent and armed protesters to disperse, then this is the military unit that will be called upon to aid the civil power.

Idiot armed misogynists determined to overturn the nation’s efforts to eliminate the Covid-19 virus will need to learn that the arrival of this force is a very bad sign indeed. Its only purpose is to disperse armed and violent offenders swiftly and decisively – if necessary by the use of deadly force. Harsh? Certainly. But the rest of New Zealand will cheer them on. Why? Because Kiwis will not tolerate a bunch of violent, armed and self-entitled right-wing thugs putting them and their loved ones at risk. Moreover, unlike the President of the USA, New Zealand’s prime minister has absolutely no interest in encouraging them do so.


    • If we follow the reasoning Chris has give us, do we assume the person shot by police was an angry white male right winger? Or is it possible that in this case Chris Trotter is guilty of extreme generalisations by implying the only people in NZ society who are in any way unhappy about the lockdown and potential lose of their jobs, livelihoods and homes are driven purely by misogyny and fear of progressive politics, and probably supporters of the US NRA?

      • I know this is a left wing political blog but some times when times are tough we all just have to pull together. Yknow when we’re rich and times are good we can have all the sports and all the war we want and I’m guilty of that. Some times when I’m cheering for my favourite sports team or political victory I’m really saying war. But in tough times the sports and the war is one of the first things to go because we just can’t afford it. It’s unfortunate when people turn to violence but some times, responding with state violence is a type of kindness.

    • MikeSee: “Wasn’t a gun toting misogynist though.”

      Certainly not gun-toting; I couldn’t say about the misogyny. Judging by the name released today, he was Indian.

  1. Ouch!!!!! what a picture you paint there Chris, quote;

    “when Police intervention has failed to persuade destructive, violent and armed protesters to disperse, then this is the military unit that will be called upon to aid the civil power.

    Idiot armed misogynists determined to overturn the nation’s efforts to eliminate the Covid-19 virus will need to learn that the arrival of this force is a very bad sign”


  2. Nice article, Chris.

    Meanwhile, Trump’s predicament gets worse. The demand destruction brought about by Coronavirus has resulted in Brent crude dropping to under $26 a barrel, but landlocked oil in the US is now trading NEGATIVE! For the first time in history oil extractors are paying customers to take oil away, as storage reaches capacity and ‘no one’ want to buy.

    Bloomberg reports -$35.07 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate, and Zero Hedge reports May futures at -$37.63 per barrel (Canada being similarly clobbered by demand destruction for its landlocked tar sands extract):

    Whether Trump can cobble yet another rescue package to keep dysfunctional financial and economic arrangements going just a little longer is open to debate.

    Meanwhile he is yet again provoking hostile relations with China.

    Thank goodness we do not have an egocentric, maniacal, self-aggrandising property speculator in charge in NZ (though we did fairly recently).

  3. I disagree strongly with the suggestion here that the farming and small business community , whether they are among the firearms licence holders or not, are any more likely to mount an armed and violent insurrection against the government’s approach to containing the virus than any other section of society. Quite the reverse would be my belief. Most NZ farming community believe deeply and wholeheartedly in the peaceful culture of contemporary and recent history in this country. The acceptance of the lockdown is pretty universal . The demographic identified here is no less accepting of it than any other.
    What say you Country Boy?

    D J S

    • DJS as a farmer I an attest that we are the least impacted workers in NZ at this time, work is as usual for most of us. The idea we would lead an armed insurrection on the basis of work as usual is not only bizarre but also insulting, yet strangely not out of character for some insular and strongly biased urban concepts of farm life (for the record I have not married a sister or cousin, and I actually went to university). A very disappointing contribution from Mr. Trotter.

      • Obviously my background too Ben but these days I’m farming harvesting and processing trees. I have to say also that the solitude is absolutely normal and the lockdown provides an opportunity for delayed maintenance and alterations. So no material disadvantage here at least in the short term. Depends on the rest of the economy’s recovery in the longer term and that might depend on the rest of the world.
        I inherited a 22 rifle from my father that I learned to shoot with about 62 years ago. I haven’t bothered with keeping up a licence for 30 odd years and handed it and my long branch AUS ex army 303 together with the 22 , now 70 years old at least to my son who has licence. The 22 , 70 + years old is now an illegal firearm . Laws get complained about when they are ridiculous not when they are reasonable.
        D J S

    • White supremacists may be the angry bitter group – some may be rural, but I doubt that the police would see them as farmers, or that they are farmers. I believe one contributes here who is not a farmer, is well heeled rural, and is likely barking mad.

      They are not necessarily anti-Maori or anti-Muslim or anti-colour per se – but pro-self, grappling with their insignificance. They don’t understand history, and importantly, they can’t accept that the demographic dominance of white communities is shrinking throughout the western world.

      Any misogynists are as likely to be women as men; historically women have not had the powerful political and social networks which men have had; we’ve not supported each other the way they do – hence the importance of much derided Women’s Studies depts in academia – and Dom columnists like the late Frank Hayden frequently mocking ‘the sisterhood’, and supported by women for doing so.

      PM Ardern certainly doesn’t seem to be a woman dependent on the power of men to get the top job – that rankles some sycophantic women too. Why ? Because they’re jealous, and scared of upsetting the status quo male apple-cart.

      Ardern’s gender is irrelevant in the current crisis, as a leader doing a very good job; some of us have accepted right from the start the it may be necessary to use the military; any threat to freedom or civil rights may be more likely further along the track should we then be a Chinese country.

      • I don’t think Jacinda’s gender is entirely irrelevant Snow White, Many women in politics seem to me to subjugate their femininity in their approach to their leadership role, perhaps as device to prove they can make it in a man’s world. Jacinta tony mind doesn’t do that, she carries her femininity in her empathy like a banner . I think she will be ourPM as long as she wants to be.

        D J S

    • Farmers as a whole ? No. In fact I’d imagine the type of people Chorus is talking about more likely live in urban areas, sure there’s plenty of dumb arse farmers but there’s far more intelligent ones.

      There’s absolutely no doubt that there are a bunch of delusional, paranoid lunatics in this country (look at the increased attacks on cell towers) who hold nothing but hatred for the govt and believe in the craziest things, they aren’t all racist but plenty of them are, in my experience these kinds of people come from middle to upper middle class urban areas and they are also not all right wing , the left has plenty of delusional, paranoid conspiratorial nutters (most of nzs anti vaxers are liberal upper middle class Karen’s who think yoga and crystals are the answer) so I don’t think you can scape goat farmers , are there farmers who are insane bigoted bootlickers? Yes, there’s bankers and lawyers in Auckland and wellington who are too.

      Tbh I’m glad these excercises are being done on the off chance , but it’d be an absolute tragedy if armed force was ever needed to be used on kiwis.

      I think we’ll get a few freedumb muppets this weekend but it’ll be a pathetically small amount.

  4. A very dissapointing article Mr Trotter, usually your articles are well written and thought out, however implying that the majority of so called gun nuts are running small businesses and farms is akin to if someone said that most people from south Auckland are rugby league following, rtd swilling, petrol head, union cranks!
    As for the defence forces conducting exersises in South Auckland could they not also be preparing for any potential backlash for when this pandemic eases and a vast number of us find we have no jobs or businesses to go back to and the bills start piling up and tensions rise etc etc… Not worth thinking about but yes could happen.

    • Agreed. sorry Chris, I normally enjoy your thoughts but you might as well have called anyone who disagrees with the way the govt has handled the current situation as ‘deplorables’. And you’re putting people into identity political groups that you normally try to avoid.

      C- must do better

  5. I ihought I read of a large, gang-related party in Sth Auckland where hundreds turned up by the vanload, and the police refrained from taking action. If this is true, who can blame them?
    It may not be only theoretical gun-nutters that this is about

  6. Hey Chris, Perhaps some history about the use of the military will enlighten some of the readers. For example the 1951 watersiders disputes, or the use of military in staffing prisons during officer industrial action, or the use of miltary after the earthquakes.

  7. It would be helpful if readers could read the text of this post before crying “military dictatorship” and voicing their “disappointment”.

    My reference to “armed, misogynist idiots”, for example, is directed at the extreme opponents of the Government’s firearms legislation – not against every small-business-owner and farmer in New Zealand. As someone born and raised on a farm, and who grew up surrounded by firearms, I am well aware that most farmers, and rural dwellers generally, are decent, law-abiding people.

    What cannot be overlooked, however, is the existence of a small but potentially extremely dangerous (because armed) minority who have consumed more of the NRA’s and the Trumpites’ Kool-Aid than is good for them.

    Are there other armed groups (like the gangs) the NZDF’s ready reaction force should be wary of? Yes, there are. These groups should also think hard before taking actions likely to draw the military’s attention.

    • Chris I am an example of the kind of person who became extremely unpopular around March 16 2019. I am a farmer who had an E category ‘military style semi automatic’ firearm. Suddenly I was a dangerous white supremacist on the look out for a mosque to shoot up. Suddenly I was the person certain Green MPs were talking about when they spoke about ongoing racism and danger from radical shooters. And not only that, my wife was raised in the same area as Brenton Tarrant, what more proof could anyone want!!??

      No one asks why we felt like we needed these rifles, if they had I would have mentioned 25 years of planting 250,000 trees, and fencing off 60ha of bush reserve to allow regeneration. I would have mentioned the slow invasion by feral goats and deer, until such time as I had to get a semi auto rifle to control them. I would have mentioned loosing $100,000 worth of tree planting, and watching 40ha of established native forest slowly open up as the undergrowth all got eaten, the ecology wrecked. I might have even mentioned my political aversion to National, and my love of environmental matters. I might have even mentioned the fact that getting the ‘E category’ endoresment allowing me to use this rifle involved more intense police vetting than is even used for current serving police officers (who are allowed to point their rifles at the population!). Nobody asked me about my Muslim and Pacifica family members, and did I really want to shoot them? (the answer is no, btw). But no one wanted to know, all the Govt wanted to do was shortcut the usual democratic process and remove these rifles in a knee-jerk travesty of democratic process to ‘make the country safe’ while totally ignoring even the possibility of unforeseen ecological and environmental consequences. It’s quite possible that their inner-city focus is such that they still have no inkling of what a stupid thing they have done.

      I would suggest those of us who are unhappy about the law change are not a radical minority, but a rational bunch of land managers trying to protect our ecology for the good of the entire nation. I would suggest anyone interested in climate change forestry mitigation should be extremely concerned about the massive increase in feral animal numbers in the last year alone, and what the long term implications will be for our native and exotic forests.

      It is quite possible that there are armed extremists who might dream of overthrowing the Govt, but I don’t know any. For most of us it was the anti-democratic process that really hurt. In my case yes I’m bloody pissed off that 30 years of my life planting trees and designing a practical self-perpetuating permaculture ecology is being wrecked by feral animals, and the only practical way to control it has been taken by a brainless Government with had no interest in discussing the issue with those impacted with their law changes. I’m angry that a foreign terrorist attacks all of NZ, but we locals get the punishment (is it ‘world leading’ to be the first country to punish the locals for a foreign terrorist attack?). And I hate to see a huge area of native bush wrecked, because what is happening on my small block will be being replicated all over the country.

    • Chris – I’ve just had a phone call from friend in Napier who says that the lock down is having little effect. She lives in Onekawa. She said people are in and out of each others’ houses, young guys on the streets fooling around in cars as usual. Said her friend in Greenmeadows says it’s much the same there; her friend, stopped by a cop when she was out buying flour, is the only person she’s aware of being stopped and questioned, but she says that the police see these young guys when they drive down from Hastings, and do nothing about it. This is where I’d have no problem with the army stepping in – I daresay that for all we know, the police could be off attending one of the burgeoning domestics, or other vital business.

      I went to the Mobil night window to try and buy a newspaper. The young guy told me that they only get 10 newspapers a day and, “We’re certainly not getting any more just because of the coronavirus.” That attitude isn’t necessarily helpful.

      David S – “Many women in politics seem to me to subjugate their femininity in their approach to their leadership role, perhaps as device to prove they can make it in a man’s world.” Interesting point. I once cited an analysis of women in power by virtue of representing powerful men’s interests – it looked at Golda Meir and Indira Ghandi and others; they’re both interesting high calibre women – Hillary Clinton different.

      But. But. When Paula Bennett adulated to the media about being in love with Bill English’s brain, and then popped off and had her gastric bypass operation, I had a quiet laugh.

      Jacinda Arden dresses with a certain chic we’re not used to in our political women – or NZ women – the French ambassador got himself into trouble a few years ago saying some such about kiwi femmes; working and living in two of the world’s greatest cities has to have given the PM an edge over the more parochially
      inclined too – and maybe less of a need to subjugate her femininity than someone whose path was eg from Ashburton to Wellington.

    • Hey Chris, point taken here,

      But me as a past member of the NZ army (1964-70) I worry about ‘who controls the army’ when they stray into political skirmishes?

      If they have no control then it is liable to become a “military dictatorship” no less.

    • I actually got what you were saying, my only criticism would be in my experience these kinds of people in an NZ context are more urban middle class types than rural.

  8. Add to your “NRA’s and the Trumpites’”, the anti 1080 pro urban hunter(s) and tinfoil hat brigade too. All wound up by the likes of Sue Grey and the ‘Friends of Sherwood Trust’ nut jobs. They are everywhere, like weeds.
    From the Tea Party to the Gweenie woke-social media activists who have been consumed by the fringe labour hoover uppers.
    what a crazy world it is …

    • Yes what a crazy world it is indeed…

      If we could just learn to leave each other alone and develop appreciation and concern for one another… this song is one of John Lennon’s shining moments of glory. And an old favorite of mine. I reckon it kind of sums up so much about us as aspecies.

      The Beatles – Revolution

      You say you want a revolution
      Well, you know
      We all want to change the world
      You tell me that it’s evolution
      Well, you know
      We all want to change the world

      But when you talk about destruction
      Don’t you know that you can count me out

      Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
      Alright, alright

      You say you got a real solution
      Well, you know
      We’d all love to see the plan
      You ask me for a contribution
      Well, you know
      We’re all doing what we can

      But if you want money for people with minds that hate
      All I can tell you is brother you have to wait

      Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
      Alright, alright, al…

      You say you’ll change the constitution
      Well, you know
      We all want to change your head
      You tell me it’s the institution
      Well, you know
      You’d better free your mind instead

      But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
      You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow

      Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
      Alright, alright

      Alright, alright
      Alright, alright
      Alright, alright
      Alright, alright

  9. Who was on tele as the Gun Nuts protesting loudly about the new rules? White middle aged men, mainly. If you can afford a cupboard full of guns you need to be well off e.g Business men (and women). Also well known our Farmers have a cupboard full as well. Fair call Mr Trotter.

  10. Have you considered the possibility that it is the gangs that represent the greater threat of gun – violence ?

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