Last year the NZDF apologised to the complainants for the way in which their complaints were handled and we repeat that apology now.
The NZDF did not adequately deal with the complexity of addressing complaints involving civilians, not yet in NZDF service, and a private civilian medical practice contracted to the NZDF.
The NZDF refutes the Herald’s claim that there was some kind of “cover up”. On the contrary, the NZDF initiated a Court of Inquiry in 2018 to investigate the way the complaints were handled and accepted a number of recommendations to improve the handling of such complaints. This included placing the complainants at the centre of the process, an approach consistent with Operation Respect, the NZDF’s program to address harmful sexual behaviours that came into being around the time of the last complaint in 2016.
NZDF provided the NZ Herald with a summary of all recommendations, and the progress taken in completing them.
NZDF did not attempt to “gag” the Herald. The NZDF released the report of the Court of Inquiry to the NZ Herald, was aware the Herald planned to publish it, and did not seek to prevent this.
As part of NZDF’s work on Operation Respect, we have become extremely conscious of the care needed when supporting complainants, including the potential risks around re-traumatising victims of harmful sexual behaviour. Accordingly, NZDF will continue to take great care in the release of any such material to the media to ensure privacy is not breached, and victims are not re-traumatised. We make no apology for that.