NZ “tanks on train” footage a rerun of US social media claims

AAP FactCheck April 3, 2020

The Statement

With New Zealand under a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, a video posted on Facebook on March 25 suggests that the NZ Defence Force is moving tanks through the North Island. 

The short video, filmed at a railway level crossing, shows a passing freight train laden with military tanks. Overlaid on the video is “Te Puke”, the name of a Bay of Plenty town, and the words “what the actual f*k”. The video has been viewed more than 100 times and received 722 shares.

Screenshot of Facebook post
 A Facebook post claims a video shows military tanks on a train in New Zealand. 

The Analysis

The COVID-19 crisis gripping the world has prompted many countries to invoke emergency powers, giving them the ability to impose policies that would normally require changes to existing legislation. For example, the United States declared a national emergency on March 13   to deal with the panademic, while similar measures have been announced in countries such as Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand. The adoption of emergency powers in countries such as the US has led to rumours on social media that a declaration of martial law – in which the military would take control of most government functions – will be the next step. US officials have addressed these claims directly and said they are incorrect.The Facebook video purporting to show military train movements in Te Puke was filmed from a car at a level crossing. A search of KiwiRail’s database of level crossings revealed there is only one level crossing in Te Puke itself, plus four in the surrounding area. 

Examination of those level crossings via Google Maps shows none resemble the crossing featured in the video. 

A web search revealed that the same clip – minus the Te Puke caption – was uploaded to YouTube on March 20, five days earlier under the title ‘Train full of Military vehicles in #Florida (2014)’.
Still images from the video also surfaced on Twitter
and on Facebook on March 21, with claims they were taken in Florida. 

FactCheck has been unable to identify the original source of the video.

Regardless of the location or date of the footage, the New Zealand Defence Force does not actually own any tanks, with its Scorpion fleet being withdrawn from service in 1998. The tanks featured in the video appear to be US-built Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which are used primarily by the US Army and are not used by New Zealand’s Defence Force. 

Finally, the car from which the video was taken is a left-hand drive vehicle, as indicated by the instrument enclosure visible in the bottom of the frame. Vehicles in New Zealand are right-hand drive, again suggesting that the footage was shot in the US and not in New Zealand. 

Bradley Fighting Vehicles
 US Army Bradley Fighting Vehicles in action in Iraq in 2003. 

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the claim that a video shows a train carrying military tanks near the New Zealand town of Te Puke to be false. The video, shot from a left-hand drive vehicle, had previously been published and features US military vehicles.

False – The primary claims of the content are factually inaccurate

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