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Medal Presentations To Nuclear Test Veterans

27 April 2002

Medal presentations will be held today in Wanganui and Palmerston North for a dozen New Zealand personnel who witnessed nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1970s, Veterans' Affairs Minister Mark Burton announced today.

Mark Burton will present medals at the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans' Association's annual conference in Palmerston North, while Wanganui MP Jill Pettis will present medals to members of another veterans' group, RIMPAC, in Wanganui.

Last month the government announced it had instituted a New Zealand Special Service Medal to recognise service to New Zealand in very difficult, adverse, or hazardous circumstances, that does not fit the criteria of operational service.

The medal is initially being awarded to New Zealand Service personnel and civilians who formed part of official New Zealand presence at atmospheric nuclear tests. This includes attendance at British nuclear tests in the Pacific and Australia in 1956-58, American tests in 1957-58, and French testing at Mururoa Atoll in 1973.

"Nuclear Test Veterans have fought for decades to have their concerns and grievances recognised," Mark Burton said. "Today's medal presentation is another step taken by this government to address those grievances.

"It follows on from a $200,000 grant to the Nuclear Test Veterans' Association, and an investigation into New Zealand's involvement with nuclear tests at Maralinga and elsewhere in the 1950s. Quite properly, the costs of veterans' doctors bills and pharmaceutical charges are being met, support services and counselling are being provided, in addition to the provision of special assistance to veterans¡¦ children suffering from spina bifida or cleft lip/palate.

"The awarding of this medal fulfils another important need - a tangible recognition of service to New Zealand," Mark Burton said.

It is estimated that around 1100 people will qualify for the New Zealand Special Service Medal.

Details of Recipients:

Palmerston North:
„h Padre Roy McKenzie, HMNZS Rotoiti (to be received by his son Stuart McKenzie).
„h Tere Tahi, HMNZS Rotoiti.
„h Anthony Werham, HMNZS Rotoiti.
„h Phillip Werham, HMNZS Pukaki (to be received by his brother Anthony).
„h Commodore Derek Chaney, HMNZS Pukaki (to be received by his widow Mrs Diana Chaney).
„h Commodore Richard Hale, HMNZS Pukaki.
„h Roy Sefton, HMNZS Pukaki.
„h Anthony Kennedy, HMNZS Canterbury (Mururoa).

„h Trevor Humphrey, HMNZS Rotoiti.
„h Colin Weaver, HMNZS Rotoiti (to be received on behalf of his widow Mrs Zeta Weaver).
„h Anthony Cox, HMNZS Otago (Mururoa).

Presentation details:

Palmerston North RSA, presentation by Veterans' Affairs Minister Mark Burton, 10am Saturday.

Wanganui ¡V Christchurch Hall Lower Lounge, Presentation by Wanganui MP Jill Pettis, 11am Saturday.

Operational detail:

For the 1957-58 British tests, named Operation Grapple, at Christmas Island in the central Pacific, New Zealand provided two frigates to act as weather-observation ships. HMNZ Ships Rotoiti and Pukaki were deployed to Christmas Island in March 1957 and were present for the first test at nearby Malden Island in May 1957. The second test followed on 31 May and the final test for 1957 on 19 June. After returning to Auckland, Rotoiti and Pukaki were made available for an extra weapons test in November. More tests were conducted in 1958, with Pukaki being deployed to observe tests in April and again in August and September.

New Zealand also sent observers to other British nuclear tests in Australia in 1956 and 1957. The United States also invited observers to weapons tests, and New Zealand personnel attended tests in Nevada in 1957 and at Eniwetok Atoll in 1958.

Later attendance by New Zealand personnel at atmospheric nuclear tests was of a somewhat different character. To demonstrate its opposition to French nuclear testing, the New Zealand Government sent the frigate HMNZS Otago to Mururoa Atoll in 1973. Otago was off Mururoa when a test was detonated on 22 July. HMNZS Canterbury followed Otago in this duty, and was present for a further test on 28 July. Although France continued nuclear tests at Mururoa, subsequent tests were underground.

Medal Design
The Special Service Medal is gold plated and bears on the obverse the New Zealand Coat of Arms and on the reverse a representation of a bouquet of New Zealand flora, composed of fern fronds and sprigs of blossom of Pohutukawa, Manuka, Kowhai and Mt Cook Lilies, with a scroll below inscribed ¡§FOR SPECIAL SERVICE¡¨. The medal is suspended from a ribbon with an orange-yellow centre with crimson, red, white, and black stripes on either side. The Herald of Arms, Mr Philip O¡¦Shea, designed the medal.


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