Defence top job goes to 'local boy'

16:00, Dec 06 2010

Timaru-born Rhys Jones has been appointed head of New Zealand's defence force.

Major General Jones, who was appointed Chief of Army 18 months ago, will take up his new role in January.

He enlisted with the army in December 1978 and attended the Royal Military College, Duntroon in Australia from 1979 to 1982.

He graduated into the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps at the rank of lieutenant in December 1982, with a Bachelor of Arts.

He has been given only a three-year appointment, instead of the usual five-year term, because Prime Minister John Key wants to monitor his progress in a major review of defence force spending.

Major General Jones replaces Lieutenant General Jerry Mataparae, who is taking up the role of director of the Government Communications Security Bureau in February.


Mr Key described Major General Jones, who will be promoted to lieutenant general, as competent and able.

News of the appointment was greeted with both pleasure and surprise by his elder brother, Timaru author Owen Marshall Jones.

"I had known in confidence that he had had an interview" for the defence force position, Mr Jones said when told of the appointment.

But he had not expected his brother to get the top job because of his relatively young age of 50, and because the present chief of defence also came from the army. It was his understanding that the top job usually rotated around the forces. Knowing his brother's previous achievements, Mr Jones was not surprised he had been promoted to the position in which he will take command of almost 15,000 staff in the army, air force and navy.

Major General Jones was last in Timaru in his official capacity in November last year when he unveiled the World War I memorial on Caroline Bay.

In an interview with The Herald a year ago, Major General Jones said that in 2000, after he had some disagreements with the then chief of army over armoured vehicles, he was sent away from New Zealand and told his army career was over.

"I was told I would not be promoted. I'd stay where I was, effectively blacklisted.

"But it was like getting a letter of censure from Hitler ... [the chief of army] was discredited and the army moved on and they brought me back."

Yesterday, Major General Jones said he was looking forward to the challenges his new role will bring.

He paid tribute to his family who had helped him throughout his career.

"My wife and children have had to live with the stresses and strains of being a military family, the constant moves and long periods of me being away during critical times in their lives."


Rhys Jones was born in Timaru in 1960, the youngest of nine children of a Methodist minister.

Enlisted in 1978.

Attained a master of arts in strategic studies from La Trobe University, Melbourne.

Served on operational duty in the Middle East with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation as an observer.

Is married with three children.

The Timaru Herald