Defence force boss sworn in

TOP JOB: Tim Keating, the new head of the NZ Defence Force.
TOP JOB: Tim Keating, the new head of the NZ Defence Force.

New Zealand has a new top military man.

Lieutenant General Tim Keating was sworn in today by Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae - himself a former  New Zealand Defence Force boss.

He replaces Lieutenant General Rhys Jones who is leaving the Defence Force after a 35-year career there.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said Keating was "a strong, credible leader" with 32 years of military experience.

"He ably supported [Jones] during his time as vice chief. He has extensive organisational management, leadership, and operational experience and has translated strategic ideas into practical achievable plans."

Keating joined the Army in 1982 and has held various command positions, including with the elite NZSAS Group.

He has served as vice chief since 2012.

He also served in Afghanistan as the Commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan in 2005, holds a Master of Strategic Studies from the US Army War College and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2008.

Coleman praised the work of Jones who he said had played a key role in devising the long term strategic vision for a future Defence Force and in implementing the Government's cost savings programme which saw spending slashed by $200 million and the number of troops plummet.

He had overseen some of New Zealand's major deployments including in Afghanistan and Timor-Leste.

Coleman announced in September that Jones' contract would not be extended beyond his initial three years.

Labour claimed the Government was using Jones a a scapegoat for a number of safety failures within the NZDF though this was strongly denied by Colemen who said a three-year contract was the norm and it was time for someone else to take the helm.