March 19, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Citing budget constraints and other defense priorities, the government of New Zealand Monday cancelled an agreement to buy 28 F-16s from the United States.
In announcing the cancellation, Prime Minister Helen Clark admitted the 700-million-dollar price tag for the planes was a bargain, but added that "one of the government's priorities is to inject logic and coherence into planning process for the Armed Forces. "
Defense Ministry officials said it was willing to buy 18 of the originally-contracted 28 planes which had been ordered by the previous administration.
Clark's Labor government took office in November. Jenny Shipley, the previous prime minister whose government had ordered the F-16s, criticized the move, saying "the complete cancellation of the contract will cost the country greatly and means an end to our ability to protect ourselves in the air."
New Zealand stands to lose 11 million dollars because of the cancellation.