Security tightens after Kauri Point 'disaster'

COMING SOON: Igloo-style bunkers like these ones in Waiouru will be built at Kauri Point as part of a $7m security upgrade.
COMING SOON: Igloo-style bunkers like these ones in Waiouru will be built at Kauri Point as part of a $7m security upgrade.

The Kauri Point ammunition depot will get a $7 million upgrade but the Labour Party says the work should have happened before the site was burgled.

Ammunition, flares and cartridges were stolen from the North Shore depot at the end of last month. The break-in happened over a weekend but was not reported until the Monday afterwards.

Joshua Vincenzo Thornton, a 25-year-old chef from the Auckland suburb of Glenfield, has been charged with burglary.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said igloo-type ammunition storage bunkers would be built on the site. The security systems would also be upgraded and a modern explosives processing facility established.

"Kauri Point will get the overhaul it needs to make it a modern facility that best meets the expectations of the community and the requirements of the contemporary defence force."

However, Labour's defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said it shouldn't have taken a "small disaster" and public pressure for security to be tightened. 

The former Labour government had received advice in 2008 on upgrading the site, including options for igloo-style bunkers, he said.

"Had the minister made public safety a priority when he took office, the upgrade, estimated to take two years to complete, would have been done by now and in all likelihood would have averted the security breech and theft that occurred at Kauri Point."

Concerns around the ammunition storage at Ohakea had also been identified, Lees-Galloway said. "Is the minister taking any action here or will public safety need to be put at risk before he steps up? This is typical 'ambulance at the bottom of the cliff' policy from National."

Mapp admitted the need to redevelop Kauri Point had been identified some years ago. "Since we became Government we have initiated a range of measures to ensure the integrity of our ammunition storage," he said.

"We have stopped using some of the storage facilities and we have ensured that all sites and facilities are properly certified."

Australian Defence Force experts would undertake regular explosives safety compliance audits, he said.

The minister had asked the defence force to draw up a comprehensive plan for the long-term development of Kauri Point following a visit to the site in May. "That plan is now nearing completion and will be implemented over the next two years."

The redevelopment plan included provision to address any contamination issues found by a Defence Force study underway in co-operation with Auckland Council, Mapp said.

The Defence Force had now improved security by upgrading the fencing, electronic systems and buildings at Kauri Point. Patrols had been changed and the frequency of inspection increased.

"The safety of the public, along with defence personnel who work on site, is our highest priority."

Auckland Now