Days after assuring the Prime Minster that military equipment recently sent to Israel is not being used in the current conflict, Ministry of Foreign Affairs bosses are now refusing to tell Kiwis who the equipment was sent to.
On Monday, after inquiries from 1 NEWS, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed it had given export approval for a "small number of firearms suppressors" to be sent to an Israeli firm for "evaluation purposes".
The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Ministry assured her that the "sample" of firearms suppressors were not being used against Palestinians.
But when 1 NEWS asked the Ministry to name the Israeli company, in order to independently verify the assurance, it refused, saying the New Zealand public is not allowed to know where the equipment was sent because of "commercial in confidence reasons".
Earlier this week, Ardern said MFAT had told her five firearm suppressor samples were to an Israeli company and that they made it clear to the exporter that if they wanted to seek export permits to sell them to Israeli companies or military in the future, “don’t bother”.
“With the existing export regime, they didn’t have grounds to say you can’t send the samples but they did have grounds to say you won’t be able to sell on a commercial arrangement to a private company, to the government or to the military,” Ardern said.
The Ministry routinely withholds information from the New Zealand public about who the end-users are for the weapons and military equipment that it issues export approvals for.
In the last three years it has approved more than 99 per cent of all applications for weapons and military equipment exports – turning down just one of more than 250 applications.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has approved multiple weapon and military equipment exports to countries on a United Nations' blacklist for targeting and killing children in conflict, including to militaries fuelling the war in Yemen.
Foreign Affairs bosses Chris Seed and Ben King have repeatedly refused to be interviewed by 1 NEWS about the weapons export regime.
Former Foreign Affairs boss Brook Barrington, who signed off on many of the export approvals to countries on the blacklist, and who now runs the Prime Minister’s department and is Jacinda Ardern’s top official, has also refused to be interviewed.
The Government has launched a review into the weapons export regime, to be carried out by David Smol, but critics say the review is too closely connected to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The review was launched after 1 NEWS revealed in February that Air New Zealand had been secretly helping the Saudi military – fixing engines for its navy and that the Government had no idea it was doing that work.