Emerging technologies the attraction for New Zealand

New Zealand is willing to join the AUKUS agreement, specifically the non-nuclear pillar of the agreement, according to GlobalData, which involves working on emerging technologies that could enhance defence capabilities and address regional security challenges.

The AUKUS agreement, which the alliance announced in September 2021, is a trilateral security partnership between Australia, the UK, and the US. The partnership aims to promote peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region, addressing common threats such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons, cyber threats, and maritime security.

Harshavardhan Dabbiru, defence analyst at GlobalData, offers his view: “The technologies associated with the AUKUS pact have significant potential to enhance the defence capabilities of New Zealand in a range of emerging military technologies. 

The development and manufacturing capabilities acquired as part of the cooperation may also assist the country in developing sub-systems like C4ISR and underwater warfare systems (UWS). GlobalData estimates that New Zealand will likely spend $452.8m on C4ISR systems and $140.9m on UWS over 2022-2032.”

A positive move against China’s disruption of regional security

New Zealand’s interest in joining the agreement is likely a positive development for the other AUKUS partners, as it would further strengthen the partnership and contribute to regional security. 

New Zealand has a history of strengthening its military capabilities, particularly in areas to fight counter-terrorism and maritime security.

GlobalData’s “New Zealand Defense Market Data 2022-2032” report claims that during the historical period, the surge in New Zealand’s defence expenditure, particularly in 2019, was mainly driven by the country’s focus on modernising its armed forces to protect its interests in the region amid the growing geopolitical influence of China. 

During 2018–22, New Zealand’s defence expenditure grew at a CAGR of 8.7%, reaching an all-time high of $4.4bn in 2019. However, due to the economic slowdown, coupled with the outbreak of COVID-19, New Zealand’s defence expenditure declined to a low of $2.5bn in 2020.

The country’s defence expenditure grew to $3.4bn in 2022 due to the need to adequately finance PA-8A and C-130J aircraft procurement.

The AUKUS agreement, which has recently announced the development of a nuclear submarine for Australia, has attracted significant attention and criticism from China, which sees the partnership as an attempt to contain its influence in the region.

However, the AUKUS partners have emphasised that the agreement is not aimed at any specific country and is focused on promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

A GlobalData report titled “New Zealand Defense Market 2022-2027” claims the continued Chinese militarisation of the East China and South China Seas also poses a severe security risk to New Zealand. 

More recently, China has openly publicised the landing of several long-range bombers, which include nuclear-capable aircraft, on islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

New Zealand’s involvement in the AUKUS agreement would likely enhance defence capabilities and contribute to regional security while strengthening the partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

As the partnership continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how other countries in the region would respond if this potential security arrangement were to proceed.

Dabbiru concluded: “Although New Zealand maintains its stand towards its nuclear-free policy, the country said that it is open to cooperating with the AUKUS members in the areas of several emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and advanced information technology. 

From a strategic perspective, this could be seen as a pragmatic move from the country to enhance regional security and its own defence capabilities.”