Uniforms contract sparks row

27 March 2009

27 March 2009 | Martha McKenzie- Minifie

A political row has broken out in New Zealand over the sourcing of uniforms for the Defence Force.

A NZ$2 million (£775,000) contract was being filled by Swazi Apparel - a manufacturer in Levin, in the country's North Island - but the deal is likely to move to a company in China when it is renewed next year.

Green Party MP Sue Bradford claimed US defence forces were required to buy 100 per cent American.

"The cradle of the free market believes in protecting its local manufacturers. We should do the same."

Bradford, who has championed a New Zealand government Buy Kiwi Made campaign since 2006, wanted an urgent review of central procurement practices and policies.

Defence minister Wayne Mapp said he would find out what the government could do about the contract. One of the problems, he said, was that the main Defence Force deal was with an Australian company, Yakka Apparel Solutions, and Swazi was a subcontractor.

New Zealand state broadcaster TVNZ last week reported that the Defence Force said the decision was made by the Australian firm on the grounds of performance and price.

The National Distribution Union, representing clothing workers, believed other contracts - including uniforms for ambulance staff - were also at risk of going offshore.

Laila Harre, the union's national secretary said: "Most countries do more to protect local manufacturing and this nonsense has to stop."


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