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Medals returned to all New Zealanders

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

21 October 2008


Medals returned to all New Zealanders

Defence Minister Phil Goff said an immensely important part of New Zealand’s heritage was today back where it belonged – on public display.

Mr Goff was in Waiouru today to mark the return of the 96 medals, including nine VCs and two George Crosses, stolen from the Army Memorial Museum on 2 December last year.

“Today is a significant day for all New Zealanders. The medals being returned are part of this nation’s taonga. Their loss would have been an incalculable cost to our nation’s heritage,” Phil Goff said.

“While keeping our medals safe, we want all New Zealanders to be able to view them as a proud part of this country’s history.

“These medals, and the stories behind them, are a vital legacy for us which should not be lost for future generations.

“To win the VC or the George Cross, the recipient must have demonstrated most conspicuous gallantry, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty.

“Yet none of the men honoured here took credit for their medals, preferring instead to accept them on behalf of the men they fought alongside. This selflessness was matched by their wives, children and grandchildren who have sought nothing in return for making their family’s medals publicly available.

“Earlier this year, the same selflessness was demonstrated by Corporal Willie Apiata VC who donated his award for outstanding courage to be held by the New Zealand SAS Trust on behalf of the nation.

“Security for the medals has been significantly improved, here and at our other military museums,” Phil Goff said.

“The cabinets displaying the medals have been upgraded and a security shutter system has been installed in the Valour Alcove. The Museum’s doors and windows are also being strengthened, and external lighting upgraded.

“Once completed, the cost of the upgrade will be over $1.5 million, but it is an investment which is both necessary and worthwhile.”

Mr Goff paid tribute to the work of Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Bensemann and his team of up to 40 police officers and Environmental Science and Research staff who have invested over 15,000 hours in Operation Valour.

“The theft of these medals was a crime against the nation. It was important that they were returned undamaged but also that those responsible for the theft are held to account. I welcome the fact that charges have been brought against those alleged to have committed the crime.

“I also acknowledge those members of the public who helped the Police recover the medals, in particular Tom Sturgess who, along with Michael Ashcroft, provided the reward which helped insure that the medals were returned,” Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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