New Zealand Cadet Forces

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Frequently asked questions

As a parent or future cadet you are bound to have plenty of questions about the New Zealand Cadet Forces. This site should give you an overview of the activities, structure and expectations we have of our cadets, as well as outline the process to join.

Below are some of the common questions we get. If there is something we haven’t covered, or you have further questions, do get in touch with your local Cadet Unit as they will be happy to assist you with any further enquiries that you may have.

Can both girls and boys join?


How old do you have to be to join Cadets and where do you join?

You can join if you are 13 - 15 years of age, or 12 years old but in Year 9 at Secondary School. You join the New Zealand Cadet Forces by enrolling with your local Unit. See the “How to Join” page for more info

How long can I serve for?

The majority of cadets serve for up to four years. After that, if you are a senior cadet who has qualified on your leadership courses, you can serve as a cadet until the day before your 20th birthday, provided you hold and maintain a valid NZ Police and NZDF Security Vetting Clearance prior to your 18th birthday.

What if I move town, can I join another Unit?

Yes, there are over 95 Units across New Zealand that you could transfer to.

What does the New Zealand Defence Force provide cadets with?

The NZDF provides you with a uniform, except for dress uniform footwear. They supply our Defence Force advisors and organise and pay for all the promotion courses you may be selected to attend. They also provide the subjects you will study.

Do you have to wear a uniform?

Yes. Uniforms are issued at no cost, although some units may charge a uniform bond. All items are supplied a few weeks after joining, and must be returned at the completion of your cadet career.

What opportunities do the New Zealand Cadet Forces offer?

Cadets take part in unique adventurous, fulfilling and educational activities in a military-like environment. Through these activities, cadets get the chance to develop a sense of purpose, responsibility, self confidence, self respect, self discipline, self reliance, leadership ability, and commitment to voluntary service.

Many former cadets comment that the cadet experience helped to develop them as an individual, achieve personal growth, leadership qualities and provide them with a sense of community service.

What will I do at cadet training activities?

You will be offered inspiring and challenging military-like experiences. You will learn valuable life and work skills that will open up new possibilities, opportunities and career options. You will be part of a team, develop leadership and survival skills, make new friends, experience challenges and learn to take responsibility.

Cadet Training

As a cadet, their training program will include citizenship training, safe firearms handling, bush survival and field craft, first aid, drill and ceremonial, communications, navigational and map reading skills, leadership, physical training, Cadet Forces and General Service Knowledge. Depending on your chosen Corps you will also learn and enjoy sailing and maritime skills, advanced field craft skills, and aviation activities including powered flying and gliding. Cadets can even have the opportunity to travel overseas on International Air Cadet Exchanges and experience different cultures.

How is Cadet Training undertaken?

Cadet training and experiences are modelled along military lines. Activities are organised by Units as part of their yearly training programs. All activities are reviewed to ensure they will be safe and that they meet all the policies and procedures. They are then approved by qualified and trained Cadet Force Officers or New Zealand Defence Force staff attached to Cadet Forces prior to cadets undertaking these activities.

Part of cadet training is to attend a weekly 3 - 4 hour parade at their Unit after school hours and on some weekends. Throughout the year, Cadet Units conduct weekend camps, training days and activities, and support Anzac Day as well as local services and ceremonies.

Cadet regional camps and courses are usually conducted on weekends and during school holidays. Some courses offered to cadets include: leadership, marksmanship training, gliding, power flying, navigation, primary skills competitions, coxswains course and regattas.

Who instructs cadets?

Officers and Instructors participating in the New Zealand Cadet Forces include: • Former and current members of the New Zealand Defence Force • Specialist personnel • Teachers • Fire, Ambulance and Police officers • Managers and executives from a wide range of Government departments and private companies • Parents and community organisation members • Former New Zealand Cadet Force Cadets

How are adult staff selected?

To become an Officer or Adult Instructor within the New Zealand Cadet Forces, members must satisfy some or all of the following pre-requisites in line with the position they hold: completion of a formal application, obtain an unencumbered clearance from the New Zealand Police, obtain a Vulnerable Children’s Act clearance, attend a predetermined number of training nights, complete online training packages and then pass a Selection Board interview before being interviewed and approved by a senior New Zealand Defence Force officer.

Officers are required to attend training courses in health and safety, first aid, equity and diversity, adolescent behaviour, acceptable behaviour, mandatory reporting, duty of care, managerial decision making, youth development philosophies, legal and societal practices and procedures, military etiquette, instructional techniques, and Code of Conduct Training.

If you’re interested in joining as an Officer or Adult Instructor it is best to make contact with the local unit you’re looking to join, as they will help you through each step of this process, or see our How to Join as an Officer or Adult Supervisor for further information.

How safe is my child?

Your child’s safety has top priority accepting that no activity can be entirely risk free.

All Officers undergo formal training in risk management on their Commissioning Course. This course includes NZQA risk management unit standards to learn how to minimise risk for your child while involved in NZCF activities.

Before they are permitted to take groups into the bush all officers have to qualify on the NZCF Field Craft Course. This course also incorporates First Aid training.

Our Sea Cadet Officers undergo Maritime Activity Supervisors courses which contribute to their Yachting New Zealand Club Instructor Certificate. They are also required to qualify on the RNZ Coast Guard Day Skippers and Boat Master qualifications.

All officers are required to qualify on New Zealand Defence Force conducted firearms safety, range safety and shooting coaching courses before they are allowed to conduct any form of firearms safety training. All cadets complete the same firearms safety course before they are allowed to handle and shoot with NZCF firearms.

Regular Officer up-date training weekends are conducted to ensure officers remain current with their skills and their knowledge.

However, no activity can be completely risk free. Cadet Forces officers are trained to recognise and minimise risk to a point where it does not impact negatively on your child’s learning experiences.

How is bullying and harassment managed?

The NZCF does not tolerate unacceptable behaviour of any kind. All cadets and staff have basic rights and obligations to participate in activities free of harassment and discrimination, and operate in a non-discriminatory, fair and safe environment. The NZCF Code of Conduct defines appropriate codes of ethical behaviour and provides guidelines for preventing, managing and reporting breaches of these codes. All Cadets and Staff sign up to a Code of Conduct.

Do I have to join the Armed Forces when I leave?

No, Cadet Forces is a youth development organisation and is not part of NZ Defence Forces.

How much does it cost?

Each Cadet Unit sets its own fees, payable by term or by the year. Many Branch Support Committees set fees depending on their viability.

Most units have additional costs for weekend activities and these range depending on what the unit is undertaking. It also depends on whether the unit’s Branch Support committee is subsidising the activity.

You will be asked to fund your child’s dress uniform footwear; the Defence Force do not supply this. Units dress parade in black shoes and, as many High Schools have black shoes as part of their uniform, these can be worn on training nights. Most cadets end up buying a second pair just for cadets because they often don’t want to be seen at school in highly polished shoes.

You are invited to approach the unit of your child’s choice and ask them for their fee structure, if applicable, and what sort of additional costs that particular unit can foresee. Please contact the Unit you are interested in joining for further details.

Can I get NZQA credits for my learning while in Cadets?

Yes. Many cadet units are incorporating NZQA unit standards into their training programme. You can have the units you achieve placed on your NZQA record of learning after you have paid the credit recording fee.

Will being a cadet help me get into the Armed Forces when I leave school?

Cadet Forces is not a recruiting arm of the New Zealand Defence Force. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that young people who serve with Cadet Forces seem to adapt more readily to life in the Armed Forces.

Does Cadets provide help with career options?

Yes. Cadets provides your child life and decision making skills, so they can meet almost any challenge. The career opportunities open to Cadets are endless.

Will I be sent overseas to fight?

Definitely not.

What if I’m not too fit?

There is no requirement to meet a specific level of fitness to join Cadets. However, like many activities, if you are fit you will get greater enjoyment from your experiences.

Do I have to stay if I find Cadets is not for me?

No, you volunteer to enter Cadet Forces and you can leave at any time.