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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 09:34 GMT
NZ gets first Maori defence chief
Peace Keepers from New Zealand cross a field in their light tank as an asphalt batching plant outside of Dili, East Timor burns in the distance Thursday October 7, 1999.
Maj Gen Mateparae co-led NZ's peacekeeping force in East Timor
New Zealand has appointed its first Maori defence chief.

Maj Gen Jerry Mateparae, 51, currently head of the country's army, will serve in his new position from 1 May, the government said.

Maj Gen Mateparae had successfully "melded together" the traditions of the Maori warrior and the British army, Defence Minister Phil Goff said.

Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, make up about 15% of the country's population, and 17% of its military.

Maj Gen Mateparae will also be promoted to lieutenant general on his promotion.

"He will continue to be a role model and I have total confidence he will be fully accepted, not only by all Maori, but all New Zealand. He is an excellent future leader," said the man he will succeed, Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson.

Maj Gen Mateparae, who will take command of 13,000 military and non-military staff across the army, air force, navy and joint headquarters, said he was pleased with his new appointment.

"I am immensely proud as a New Zealander... to serve. I am also immensely proud as a member of Ngati Tuwharetoa [tribe] to be selected," he said.

The new defence commander is best known for leading New Zealand's peace monitoring team in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea in 1998.

He was also the joint commander of the New Zealand forces in East Timor from 1999 to 2001.

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