The Defence Force has revealed it's losing staff to the lucrative Australian mining industry as a new survey shows morale has hit a fresh low.
Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said Australian mining companies were ''actively recruiting'' in the Devonport area near the Auckland naval base.
''The mining industry is one the military find very hard to compete with. The salary package is often twice, if not more. The Australian military is being stripped as well.''
The Navy was particularly affected because it handled large equipment.
''That's what the mining industry deals with as well, large cutting machines, large engines and vehicles. Any type of mechanical trade is being picked up.''
Jones said the Australian departures were one of the main reasons for a 22.3 per cent attrition rate in the Navy.
According to the auditor-general the Defence Force had lost almost 1000 personnel in the past two years, going from 14,577 to 13,667.
In an effort to save $400 million the Government has embarked on a process of civilianising up to 600 roles.
That process had badly affected morale with Rear Admiral Jack Steer, vice-chief of the Defence Force, telling Parliament earlier this year that it would not force any more redundancies because it had been ''too damaging''.
The most recent workplace survey released today shows morale has continued to fall and is now at its lowest level, with more than 40 per cent of staff saying they intended to leave.
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman told the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee about 73 per cent of personnel rated their experience in the force as satisfactory, good or excellent.
However, the Government wouldn't want to see a 22.3 per cent attrition rate in the Navy ''year on year''.
The changes had not been without problems, he acknowledged.
Losing staff to the Australian mining industry was a nationwide issue, Coleman later told reporters.
While the force could handle all the disasters it had contingency plans for, Jones said it would be under strain if it had to sustain another East Timor-type deployment with more than 1000 people.
Navy staff losses had led to its inshore patrol boats having less days at sea and sailors more time at home.
Jones said the benefits of that weren't being seen yet but it was one way the force was trying to improve the quality of life for staff.
''The Navy, the Army and the Air Force remain amazing places to work. They are fun organisations full of amazing people.''
The changes they were going through were going to be ''very good for the Defence Force''.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Rate the Government's progress around drinking laws:Related story: New drinking law a vital step