Kiwi Polemicist

May 18, 2009

• New Zealand Army can be used against civilians

The siege involving Jan Molenaar was bad news and Molenaar was guilty of murder, but the police should never have been there in the first place. Why not? It was a drugs raid, and the state has no right tell people what they can and cannot put into their bodies. As I said in my earlier post, it was a pointless death of a policeman. On the other hand, everyone who chooses the enforce the immoral laws of the state freely chooses to risk death.

One of the interesting things bought to light by this episode was the government’s ability to use the military against civilians: this is covered by S9 of the Defence Act. The New Zealand Armed Forces can “perform any public service” and “provide assistance to the civil power in time of emergency”. Also, if the police say that they can’t cope with a situation then the military can be used and the military personnel have all the powers and legal protections that the police have. There’s a few pesky procedures for the government to go through, but basically the military can be used against civilians at any time.

So the New Zealand Armed Forces are a police force and can be used in any civil situation. If that’s not a sign of a police state what is?



  1. KP: If we ignore the issue of whether the cops should have been checking for drugs at all, the reality was that the man had shot four people, killing one of them, and was continuing to fire on the police.

    In that situation, what would you do?

    Rightly or wrongly it is currently the job of the police to apprehend violent criminals in our society. However the police have no armoured vehicles of their own. Should the police:
    – Go in guns blazing on foot or in unarmoured Commodores, allowing more police to die?
    – Quickly weld some slabs of steel around a van and drive it up to the house?
    – Hire or buy an armoured vehicle from the army, quickly train a cop to drive it, and staff it with police who have never used the machinery before? Would you be happy with this if it was no longer officially an army vehicle and they painted it blue for a day before selling it back?
    – What if they hired a WWII-vintage armoured vehicle from a private collector? Would that be ok?

    The reality is KP that once someone has crossed the line to killing people the police have to apprehend them as rapidly and safely as possible. If that means using army equipment, then so be it. There is no point leaving the right equipment idle while police risk their lives pointlessly.

    Whether cannabis should be legal or not is an entirely separate issue. You can well argue that the police should not have been there in the first place, maybe the law they were enforcing was debatable.

    But the army were not brought in to find a few cannabis plants. They were brought in to apprehend a violent criminal who was doing his level best to kill as many cops and civilians as he could. Someone had to apprehend him.

    Comment by Mr Dennis — May 18, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

    • Mr Dennis: What would I do? I’d put up a cordon, deny water and electricity, and wait for the guy to eat his gun or die of thirst.

      The police have a nasty habit of immediately using maximum force rather than cordon-and-contain, see my earlier post on that:

      My point was that the NZ government effectively has carte blanche with which to use the military against civilians, made worse by the fact that the government is not legally subject to the citizens.

      If my memory serves me correctly, the media said that the LAVs were used defensively rather than offensively.The LAVs almost certainly didn’t solve the situation: ergo, it was arguably not a situation beyond police abilities according to the Act and the use of the Army was illegal.

      The LAVs are basically taxis that will stop pop-gun rounds and I cannot see how they would solve a situation like the one in Napier.

      As an aside, the LAVs are militarily near-useless death traps and conspiracy theorists would say that they’re only useful against lightly armed civilians. Ian Wishart wrote about the failings of the LAVs, but I can’t find that on the web.

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — May 18, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

  2. “I’d put up a cordon, deny water and electricity, and wait for the guy to eat his gun or die of thirst.”
    While the entire neighbourhood is having to be put up in hotels for a fortnight, with very little hope of getting that cost back from the offender.

    That’s like saying “my child is running riot destroying the lounge, I’ll just shut the door, deny water and electricity, and wait till they stop smashing things and come out”. At some point you have to intervene.

    Sure the LAVs have problems. But they are useful against small arms. The only reason the LAVs didn’t solve the problem was that he shot himself – had he continued to fight it is likely the LAVs would have been extremely useful.

    I think the reason the military can be used for any purpose is purely practical – there’s no point paying a few thousand men to sit round twiddling their thumbs just in case we are invaded, if we’re paying them anyway they may as well be available to help out with civil defence, serious armed offenders and other purposes.

    Comment by Mr Dennis — May 19, 2009 @ 9:58 am

    • Mr Dennis: my primary point was not the Napier siege, but the ease with which the military can be used against civilians for any reason. The police and the military are essentially the same thing, but use of the military against civilians is a characteristic of totalitarianism and therefore I regard the legislation as being indicative of totalitarianism. Perhaps I should have made that clear in the post.

      The Napier situation was utterly FUBAR (starting with drug illegalisation) and there’s no good solution available. He ate his gun after a few days, not a fortnight: most sieges involve mentally unbalanced people who will look for a way out of the situation in short order.

      If we were invaded our military would at best be a mere speed bump for the aggressor and I question the value of having any armed forces (I’m not a pacifist).

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — May 19, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

  3. See my comment regarding solving the Napier question highlighting where we went wrong and why it turned to custard.

    see (use Google Scholar) Ironies of Social Control: Authorities as Contributors to Deviance Through Escalation, Nonenforcement and Covert Facilitation (Gary T Marx, Dept of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT)

    Comment by Blair Anderson — May 19, 2009 @ 10:28 am

  4. KP: As long as the State is in charge of law enforcement (which seriously is not going to change in NZ, most people agree with having a police force), we will have this situation. If we are paying a military anyway, and the state is in charge of law enforcement, it would be an inefficient use of resources to not use the military in extreme circumstances.

    “If we were invaded our military would at best be a mere speed bump for the aggressor”
    I agree, we have a pretty small military.

    “…and I question the value of having any armed forces (I’m not a pacifist).”
    Shouldn’t we be having a stronger military then if we want to avoid invasion, not getting rid of what little we have?

    In my opinion, the most important role of the State is defence (including diplomacy). The second is internal security (most importantly provision of a court system). There are other things the state could do, but these are all more open to debate.

    Once you have your borders secure and a court system that people can take internal disputes to, the country should get along ok. But if you fail to secure your borders there is no point investing in the country, as your investment could be wiped out at any time. This is where the Libz have it right in my opinion – although they want to get rid of pretty well everything else they recognise the importance of a strong defence force.

    Comment by Mr Dennis — May 20, 2009 @ 10:18 am

    • Mr Dennis: to stop an invasion we’d need a massive military force. I’m talking about submarines, carriers with aircraft more modern than a Sopwith Camel, and capital ships with guns rather larger than the one inch spud guns on the frigates. We’d also need antisubmarine forces a lot more credible than a few helicopters and Orions, plus land forces with the ability to detect and shoot down bombers, fighter aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles.

      I don’t know how we’d afford that even if taxes were a flat 6-12% and the economy took off.

      Any military force less than what I’ve described begs the question “why bother?”, simply because anything less is just as bad as having nothing. It might even be worse than having nothing, because the invaders would do damage rather than just strolling in. We’re conquered either way.

      I’m no expert on military matters and my opinion is sub judice.

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — May 22, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  5. No, to stop an invasion we’d need to provide military forces that can work in conjunction with suitable allies such as Australia and the USA to stop an invasion of any of our countries. On our own we wouldn’t have a hope – that’s why diplomacy is an integral part of defence.

    Our military needs to be designed specifically looking at Australia’s military, to address areas that Australia is lacking, creating an efficient integrated ANZAC force.

    I think you’re being a bit pessimistic KP!

    Comment by Mr Dennis — May 25, 2009 @ 9:09 am

  6. I don’t necessarily have faith in them, but I do recognise the necessity of cultivating a relationship which will allow us to have faith in them, and them in us, like the old ANZUS treaty.

    Comment by Mr Dennis — May 25, 2009 @ 7:38 pm

  7. The LAV’s were not used “against” anyone. They were used to get a few families out of the area which was coming under fire from that weirdo’s rifle. The Lav protected them while they were in danger of being shot at. You say this is the governement using the Army against civillians?
    Then you go off on a tangent about how we can’t defend ourselves? About how our defence forces are just sitting round doing nothing? Our primary defence is that people are welcome here. We will never be invaded. We will just have more flavours to choose from. That is the way of the world.
    And sitting round? Our defence forces have one of the highest operational turnovers going. Because our forces are small, but heavily involved trying to make things normal after a few wars other people started.
    Maybe you think I am Wayne Mapp or something, but I like to grow my own veges

    Comment by Ants — May 25, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

    • Ants: I did not say that the LAVs had been used against civilians, I said that they could be used against civilians. However, it is arguable that any assistance given to the police by the army is using the army against civilians, even if that assistance is not aggressive.

      I have removed the first sentence of your comment which was in breach of my comments policy.

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — May 26, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  8. >If we ignore the issue of whether the cops should have been checking for drugs at all, the reality was…

    If we ignore the issue more ‘honourable people will be dispatched on mission impossible’. The quote was made by visiting Judge Jerry Paradis at the AUT Vice Chancellors Winter Series talk in 2008 in reference to the ‘dead unlucky’ air rifle killing of a policemand operating undercover (of darkness) attempting to place a surveillance device on a vehicle purportedly to ‘find evidence of drugs’. Neither the location, or the vehicle in question has subsequently been associated with the purpose to which the police were there. No validational search warrant has been produced. So the ‘issue’ of why they were there is salient. As it was with Molennar. As it has been in many other case where the police have a tragic record of shoot to kill. The validation of ‘maybe’ they are on meth is a manufactured illusion that panders to police ‘story telling’ rather than fact. (ACC report on meth and violence, found no correlation in the (extensive) medical literature, approx. May 2006).

    The mismanagement of drug policy by police and those who profit from the mayhem, including ‘get tough’ politicians is a damning indictment that renders us all stupid.

    The Police funded BERL report is a classic case in point, as is the latest missive from national Drug Intelligence Bureau that quite deliberately argues and connects cannabis criminalisation policy to meth enforcement. The report pretends there is no legitimate argument to the contrary, that the common ground is a given defined by ‘we are right, you are wrong’, whereas antiprohitors are at least demonstrably able to listen to and assimilate the strongly held views those who think the law is working. Instead, Police and the actors associated with the prohibitory message marginalise and suppress those who address this issue as contriving troublemakers deserving of ‘just’ suppression.

    That it is OK to lie a bit about drugs to get the message over they are dangerous has become a profession supported by near bottomless budgets largely hidden in the mire of police, health, justice, corrections, border control and treatment remains largely unaccounted.

    Where is the promised cost benefit analysis? dropped out of the 1996 National Drug Policy presumably due to the ‘legislative implications’ pre-election. Indeed when did Police last do a stregic anlaysis of resources applied vs effect achieved. They have to do it with road safety.. why not ‘drug’ safety? What could they be afraid of? Loosing budget? Loosing status? Loosing credibility or all of the above?

    “If we ignore” is the key phrase we cannot allow to escape scrutiny. It presumes far to much to ignore systemic and chronic failure, for if what we have now is to be lauded as any kind of success… I would loath the task of defining what a deficient drug policy might look like.

    Which all makes the Law Commission Review of all drug policy, discussion document due anytime soon, one of the most important considerations for public discussion in this term of parliament.

    Comment by Blair Anderson — February 9, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  9. It was a year ago, let it go….

    Oops, Gage the dog?

    Comment by Blair Anderson — March 16, 2011 @ 10:33 am

  10. NZ Army was used in last weeks Police ‘misuse of drugs’ busts….

    This was accounted for where?

    Comment by Blair Anderson — March 16, 2011 @ 10:54 am

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