The families of New Zealand military personnel, and their dependants, buried overseas between 1955 and 1971 in Singapore and Malaysia will be offered the opportunity to repatriate their loved ones.
Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Bennett says this decision comes as a result of recommendations by the Veterans’ Advisory Board and the advocacy of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association and families affected, and has thanked them for their important contributions.
“Following the efforts by families to have their loved ones brought home, the Government last year asked the Veterans’ Advisory Board to look into New Zealand’s repatriation policy. The Board identified a number of inconsistencies, and the Government has listened.
“New Zealand had an inconsistent policy of repatriation between 1955 and 1971. Families could opt to meet repatriation costs themselves, but not all could afford to do so. Other civil servants were also repatriated. We want to restore fairness for those families affected.”
Mr Bennett says the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will also look at extending the offer to the families of New Zealanders interred as a result of a military burial between 1955 and 1971 in American Samoa, Australia, Fiji, Korea, and the United Kingdom, and all countries involved have been contacted.
The NZDF will oversee the repatriation process, including consultation with the families, and the planning and subsequent return of any bodies.
“The decision on whether or not to bring the bodies home will be the families’ to make,” Mr Bennett says.
“If they choose not to repatriate, the graves will continue to be cared for under current agreements. We will support the families through this process.”
Mr Bennett also thanked the Malaysian and Singaporean governments for caring for the New Zealanders interred in their cemeteries.
The Government will provide an initial $750,000 to the NZDF to establish the project group. Further funding to allow the bodies to be returned will be made available once the full cost is identified.
Who will be repatriated?
Any service personnel or dependant of service personnel buried in Malaysia or Singapore from 1 January 1955 to 1 January 1971 will be eligible to be repatriated to New Zealand. The decision will be up to their families to make.
Who will manage the repatriation process?
The NZDF will implement and manage the repatriation project.
What are the next steps?
The NZDF will now consult with affected families about whether or not they want their loved ones returned. NZDF will be contacting those families, though the families are also welcome to get in touch with NZDF if they wish to do so.
The NZDF is also exploring the option of extending the offer of repatriation to other New Zealanders interred as a result of a military burial between 1955 and 1971 in American Samoa, Australia, Fiji, Korea, and the United Kingdom, and all countries involved have been contacted.
The NZDF is encouraging families to register with them by calling Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand on 0800 483 8372 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why is the 1955 policy change taken as a reference point and how has repatriation changed over time?
The policy between 1899 and 1955 was to bury service personnel who died overseas close to where they died and not be repatriated to New Zealand. This policy was adhered to without exception.
The underlying principle was that there should be equality in the manner in which the dead were buried and commemorated, regardless of background, status, wealth, or cause and location of death.
Over that period administrative arrangements for the care of our overseas dead have included the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the British Ministry of Defence, the Commission for the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea, and service level agreements with local authorities in a variety of countries.
In early 1955 New Zealand overseas burial policy changed to allow families to repatriate Service Personnel who died overseas for burial at home, at the families’ own expense, which created inequity.
In 1971 the policy changed again, whereby the Government would offer to repatriate at public expense all service personnel and their dependents who died while serving overseas.
It has also been policy since that time not to repatriate the remains of those who were already interred overseas. This policy was last considered and reconfirmed by Cabinet in 2007.
How much will repatriation cost?
The planning and scoping process has been allocated $750,000. Further funding will be made available once the NZDF steering group has completed its consultations and planning process.
When will the remains be returned? That will be considered by the NZDF project group as part of the consultation and planning process.
How many remains will this process cover?
The remains of least 36 Service personnel and dependants have been identified that could be initially repatriated.
Annual research released today has highlighted the hidden cost we pay for road crashes, says Associate Transport Minister David Bennett.
The Ministry of Transport’s annual Social Cost of Road Crashes and Injuries report seeks to understand the social and economic cost of road crashes to New Zealand, and the estimated total social cost of fatal and injury crashes rose from $3.53 billion in 2014 to $3.79 billion in 2015.
In per-crash terms, the updated average social cost is estimated at $4,729,000 per fatal crash, $912,000 per reported serious crash and $99,000 per reported minor crash.
“Putting a value on a life lost or permanently altered is impossible. This report shows that on top of the high price paid by friends, families and communities, each and every crash has serious social and economic consequences for all of us,” Mr Bennett says.
Over 300 New Zealander’s lost their lives on New Zealand roads last year, and about 2,500 were seriously injured.
“The sad thing is that many of these crashes were avoidable. In forty per cent of the crashes where people were killed or seriously injured, the driver had drunk more than the legal limit of alcohol, was driving too fast for the conditions, or people in the vehicles weren’t wearing a seatbelt,” Mr Bennett says.
The Government spends billions of dollars a year on physical infrastructure improvements such as median barriers, rumble strips and wide shoulders, as well as on road safety enforcement, advertising, and education campaigns trying to encourage the sort of behavioural change required on our roads.
“How we drive can have such serious consequences for ourselves and other road users. We are all responsible for lowering the road toll, and reducing the emotional, physical and social cost of crashes on New Zealand roads,” Mr Bennett says.
The latest report is available on the Ministry of Transport’s website: http://www.transport.govt.nz/socialcost
Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Bennett has launched the 2017 Battle of Passchendaele multi-media competition.
On 12 October 1917 at the World War One Battle of Passchendaele, 845 New Zealanders died, more than any other day in history. A further 2,700 were wounded.
The annual competition, open to all Year 13 students, asks students to explore what that significant day means to them though the medium of their choice.
“It is one of the bleakest days in our history and it’s important we continue to reflect on the sacrifice made in the fields of Belgium 100 years ago,” Mr Bennett says
“One way to continue the legacy is through today’s youth. I look forward to seeing students sharing their stories and experiences of remembering New Zealand’s service in war and conflict.”
The winning Year 13 student will receive a $2,000 education contribution and, along with the runner up, will travel to Belgium to attend the Battle of Passchendaele centenary commemorations in October 2017.
This year there is also a special Year 12 ‘speech writing’ category marking the centenary of Passchendaele. The winner of the Year 12 category will represent New Zealand Youth, and read their winning entry at the national commemorative ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington.
Entries close Friday 12 May 2017.
For more information, visit www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz/multimediacompetition
Road works are underway right now to make the main trunk line to Tauranga from Auckland safer for motorists, Associate Transport Minister David Bennett says.
The work includes the instalment of flexible safety barriers in high risk areas as well as rumble strips and the widening of property entrances along State Highway 27, from Tatuanui to north of Matamata.
“The Government is committed to making our roads safer and has a wide ranging programme to achieve that,” Mr Bennett says.
“That includes efforts to install new safety measures, improving the quality of our roads, increasing the number of police and better educating motorists about road safety.
“This $4.3 million project is making a high-use road safer. This road not only leads to a favourite summertime spot of many Kiwis, it also falls into the golden triangle, which has the majority of New Zealand’s freight go through it.”
Mr Bennett says the safety improvements will reduce the risk of crashes, make the stretch of road safer for people who travel on it and will provide a more forgiving environment for motorists who make mistakes when they are driving.
It is part of the $600m Safer Roads and Roadsides programmes - a series of safety projects being delivered over six years to reduce deaths and serious injuries on high-risk rural highways across the country.
Construction began this week and is expected to be completed by August.
Food Safety Minister David Bennett is today travelling to Sri Lanka with a New Zealand business delegation to further strengthen ties between the two countries.
“New Zealand’s relationship with Sri Lanka is stronger than ever, so this is an exciting time to travel with some of our business leaders and create new opportunities for our nations,” Mr Bennett says.
“Sri Lanka’s economy is thriving, with the potential for New Zealand to increase not only its commodity trade, but other sectors including aviation and healthcare.”
Sri Lanka has the richest per capita economy in South Asia. The capital, Colombo, has a large shipping port which services large freight lines that link to New Zealand via Singapore.
“New Zealand prides itself on being an outward looking nation, and this Government is relentlessly pursuing opportunities for more local businesses to succeed abroad,” Mr Bennett says.
“Our economy is growing well, is increasingly diversified, and building closer ties with nations like Sri Lanka is the best way to ensure we remain on this track.”
The world watches on as the Olympic Games take our attention at this time of year. It is an opportunity for our sportsmen and sportswomen to test their strength and endurance against the best in the world. We wish all our competitors the very best, especially those based in our region such as our rowing, equestrian, cycling, football, sevens, hockey and athletics competitors. As a region, we are extremely well represented at the highest level of international sport.
The Government’s recent regional investment in our world class athletes is exemplified in the Avantidrome at Cambridge. This $29 million project has been crucial to building the base of cycling for New Zealand. The Waikato Regional Council also needs to be hailed for their wise support of this project for the benefit of our region.
The Olympic Games are a special occasion, as the best from around the world come together to compete. The values of diversity and equality are universally accepted in this sporting showcase. It is a shame that world politics cannot live up to these values; instead, politics has been dominated by debates over exclusion, restrictions and a closed approach to immigration and trade.
A closed approach can never work. It has been tried and failed in countries like South Africa, and the USSR. Instead, an approach of openness and acceptance proves to be effective. The way the United States economy has transitioned from a manufacturing base to one of services and technology, has proven to be very effective. In being open and accepting we become more resilient and vibrant. Just like athletes at the Olympics, the approach of openness and competition brings the best out of all people.
Hamilton has shown itself to be accepting of many different cultures and nationalities. Our Citizenship Ceremonies are a great example of a welcoming and open community. When we welcome over one hundred new residents each month to the city, it is a very special occasion for them but also a time to celebrate for our city.
We must resist the parties in the opposition that seek to restrain and limit our trade. They are closing the country to trade and migration opportunities for New Zealand. In doing so, they are restricting New Zealand’s future and hurting our chances of competing and succeeding.
Let the Olympics be an example of what politics needs to embrace, in having an open and nurturing approach to immigration and trade.