Members will be well aware that over the past two years or so there’s been a number of activities that have occurred in the area of Veterans. To briefly recap, a Veterans Advisory Board [VAB], without RNZN representation, was established by the Minister of Veteran Affairs [MOVA] and tasked with looking at “What is a Veteran? and how would New Zealand recognised these veterans?” (Recommendation 63 of the Ron Patterson Report). You will recall the VAB forwarded their paper/report, in accordance with their tasking, to MOVA on or before 30 June 2019. After many written questions in Parliament raised by Dan Bidois MP for Birkenhead and other MPs regarding the VAB report outcome/results. MOVA, shortly thereafter, advised he was preparing a paper which he would take to his Cabinet colleagues in December 2019. Well here we are now in December, five months after he received the VAB report and where is MOVA’s paper? One can only wonder if it’s still resting comfortably, without a care in the world, in MOVA’s too hard tray! Parliament closes on Thursday 19 December 2019 and does not reopen until Tuesday 11 February 2020. No further comment needed! Well, what say all you ex-servicemen and women about this dilemma? I cannot address you as veterans as Arghhh, what is a Veteran? Put simply, nobody knows very much as MOVA, because of his inaction, seemingly treats us with contempt! Maybe MOVA is waiting for election year to handout a carrot to ex-servicemen and women. Good luck with that!
You will also recall that a shipmate of ours Chief Petty Officer Pokiha (Tom) Hiini tragically crossed the bar on 15 September 2018 and could not be buried in the Service section of the Waiheke Cemetery because although he had served in the RNZN for 21 years (1966 – 1987), Tom had no qualifying operational service under the current rules. This stopped Tom from being interred in the Service section of the cemetery. Many letters were written by the association and Tom’s shipmates to their local Members of Parliament, the Minister of Veteran Affairs, and the Minister of Health (who administer the Act). Also, the Opposition Spokesperson for Veterans questioned this ruling and again what have we heard? Surprise! Surprise! MOH stated that the Burial and Cremations Act will be reviewed in due course. WOW! Now that’s ‘speed of light’ progress for you.
A lot of ex-Servicemen and women expected positive results, especially, when an ex-soldier was elected as a Member of Parliament and appointed as the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of Defence. Sadly, to be blunt, the opposite has been our experience and now all the association can hope for is that 2020 passes quickly and someone else is appointed to those portfolios who is widely respected, scrupulously fair, shows sound judgement and actually abides by the rules of good governance who will promptly and sensibly address all of our legitimate concerns.