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Defence Minister Ron Mark has some serious questions to answer over what appears to be totally inappropriate use of NZDF aircraft, National’s Defence spokesman Mark Mitchell says.

“Official Information shows Air Force NH-90 helicopters and a B200 King Air aircraft have repeatedly been diverted to Mr Mark’s hometown, Masterton, apparently to ferry the minister from his home to events around the country and back again,” Mr Mitchell says.

“There is no Royal New Zealand Air Force base in Masterton, which suggests the aircraft are being sent from Ohakea Air Base for the Minister’s personal convenience.

“Mr Mark has even used an NH90 to travel from Masterton to Waiouru and back in the same day – a three hour trip each way by car. Why did he not save the taxpayer the cost and the NZDF the time and use a much cheaper Crown car instead? It’s happening so regularly locals are asking questions about it.

“At a time when the Defence Force is being asked to do more than ever before, while also being asked to tighten its belt and brace for a funding cut it is appalling that the Minister of Defence is using the Air Force as a personal taxi service.

“I want to know why the Minister has either requested this service, or refused to decline it, as he would have known there is no way the flying hours, fuel and cost could be justified.

“This is an incredibly inappropriate use of Defence resources, and I am sure the public would be interested to know why the Minister is opting to use already stretched Defence assets rather than the Ministerial Crown Cars that are available to him.

“Mr Mark needs to front and explain why he thinks his personal convenience is the most appropriate use of taxpayer funded defence resources,” Mr Mitchell says.

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