NZDF defends $4.2m ad spend

The Defence Force has spent $4.2 million on placing media adverts over the last three years - on top of a $16m contract with Saatchi and Saatchi.

Stuff revealed last month how the Defence Force was planning to spend $4.9m on advertising over the next year, despite cutting more than 300 uniformed jobs.

Further questioning by Green MP Keith Locke has revealed that the total spending on advertising since 2008 is more than $20m - with another $15 million budgeted for the next three years. He says the amount is ''mind-boggling.''

However, the force says it is struggling to attract recruits with specialist skills, such as medics and engineers, and needs to advertise.  Part of the budget will pay for a new TVNZ reality show aimed at children, also funded by NZ on Air.  Operation Hero will air later this month.

Defence Force director of strategic recruitment, Commander Nigel Philpott, said continuous recruiting prevented a ''black hole'' in training. The three forces - navy, army and air force - were brought under one contract saving more than $2m, he said.

''It's always be quite hard to get the numbers we need. We recruit on average 15,000-17,000 people a year. We need about 15,000 people a year to sustain operations.

He said Saatchi and Saatchi tendered for the contract and they ''came in with the best cost''.

In June military personnel were told their post are being civilianised, the first step in a move to replace about 100 uniformed staff with 500 civilians.

Mr Locke said the ''ruler hasn't been run over this properly''.

He said advertising for specialist careers should be more targeted.

''It does seem a huge amount and very hard to justify. Do you really remember much about the Defence Force advertising?  It's so hard to think that the creative element was worth that amount of money.

Saatchi and Saatchi has a three year contract with the Defence Force, with two two-year rights of renewal, the first in 2012.

In 2006-7 the force spent a total of $7.9m on advertising,  in 2007/08 it was $7.4m and in 2008/9 $7.5m. The figures were revealed in written parliamentary questions submitted to defence minister Wayne Mapp by Locke.