What We Do


The mission for the New Zealand Defence Force is:

"To secure New Zealand against external threat, to protect our sovereign interests, including the Exclusive Economic Zone, and to take action to meet likely contingencies in New Zealand’s area of strategic interest.”

The White Paper provides Defence with the direction it needs to be able to effectively prioritise the roles and tasks it undertakes, both at home and overseas, and guide the modernisation of many of the Defence Force’s military capabilities. The Defence White Paper 2016 provides an opportunity to take stock of changes to New Zealand’s strategic circumstances since 2010.

New Zealand’s National Security Interests

Acting in a lead role or in support of other New Zealand agencies, Defence contributes to the following national security interests:

  • A safe and secure New Zealand, including its border and approaches;
  • A rules-based international order, which respects national sovereignty;
  • A network of strong, international linkages; and
  • A sound global economy underpinned by open trade routes. The primary guide for developing capability under the policy framework provided by the Defence White Paper is the Defence Capability Plan, first published in September 2011.
  • Read the Defence Capability Plan


Tasks in and around New Zealand and the South Pacific will be the starting point for choosing the military capabilities of the NZDF. This means, with Australia, being able to deal with any reasonably foreseeable contingency in the South Pacific.

The capabilities required for the range of possible operations in our near region would also allow the NZDF to make a credible contribution to stability in Asia, as well as further afield.

The NZDF will also need to remain interoperable with New Zealand’s principal partners. It will also need to be deployable, sufficiently self-reliant, versatile, and adaptable. Our international interests mean that the NZDF will retain the ability to contribute combat capabilities when required.

In contributing to the Government’s Security Interests, the NZDF is expected to conduct the following Principal Tasks, as identified in the recent White Paper, over the next 25 years:

  • To defend New Zealand’s sovereignty;
  • To discharge our obligations as an ally of Australia;
  • To contribute to and, where necessary, lead peace and security operations in the South Pacific;
  • To make a credible contribution in support of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region;
  • To protect New Zealand’s wider interests by contributing to international peace and security, and the international rule of law;
  • To contribute to whole-of-government efforts at home and abroad in resource protection, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance;
  • To participate in whole-of-government efforts to monitor the international strategic environment; and
  • To be prepared to respond to sudden shifts and other disjunctions in the strategic direction.

The order of these tasks reflects the extent to which the Government has choice over any deployment of the NZDF.

To conduct these tasks, the NZDF will focus on deployable ground forces, strategic projection and logistic capacity, network-enabled intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and capabilities able to fulfil a credible combat role.

Defence is one component of New Zealand’s foreign and security policy. While the NZDF is constitutionally the sole provider of military forces, it is not the sole contributor to strategic outcomes for national security. A range of other government departments and agencies, including for example the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NZ Police, the Customs and Immigration Services, the Government Communications Security Bureau and the Ministry of Fisheries, all contribute to promoting and protecting New Zealand’s national security.

Public Documents

This page was last reviewed on 7 September 2018.