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Veterans funded for WWII commemorations

Veterans funded for WWII commemorations

National will fund World War II veterans who wish to travel to 70th anniversary commemorations overseas, says Veterans' Affairs Spokeswoman Judith Collins.

National launched its Veterans' Affairs policy today at the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association annual conference in Wellington.

Under the policy, WWII veterans will be funded to attend selected overseas 70th anniversary commemorations associated with their service. This will include business-class or RNZAF flights, accommodation, meals, medical assistance and support staff from the Defence Force.

"National understands how important it is for veterans to be able to take part in these commemorations as - for the majority of them - it will be their last opportunity to do so," Ms Collins says.

"For the 50th and 60th World War II anniversary commemorations the Governments of the day held ballots to determine which veterans would have their expenses met to attend.

"Given the advanced age of WWII veterans, it was National's view that balloting would not be appropriate.

"We have a small number of veterans who will want to travel, and will be fit enough to do so. If they wish to attend, we have an obligation to do whatever we could to make that possible.

"This policy will be a significant commitment from the Government. We see it as an opportunity for the country to demonstrate to these veterans how much it values their service by helping them attend commemorations where they served one last time," Ms Collins says.

The assistance is expected to focus on the following overseas commemorations which are of significance to New Zealand:

* El Alamein, in October 2012, will be a representative anniversary for those who served in North Africa.

* Cassino, in May 2014, will be the representative anniversary for those who served in Italy.

* D-Day, in June 2014, will be the representative anniversary for aircrew and naval personnel involved in operations in Northeast Europe.

* New Caledonia, in April 2013, will be the representative anniversary for those who served in the Pacific.

There are other 70th anniversary related commemorations, including the Battle for Guadalcanal in August 2012 and the dedication of the Bomber Command Memorial by the Queen, tentatively scheduled for June 2012.

Pacific veterans will be involved in commemorative activities with the US marines when they return to New Zealand next year.

As well as overseas commemorations there will be local events for veterans who are unable or do not wish to travel overseas. Funding would be available for WWII veterans to travel to commemorations within New Zealand.

A new military commemorations co-ordination unit within the Defence Force will be established to plan and co-ordinate military commemorations.

The policy also includes:

* Completing the development of Memorial Park in Wellington in time for the centenary of World War I. The park will be the centrepiece of commemorations beginning in 2014.

* Modernising the War Pensions Act in response to the Law Commission's report on the review of the Act. National is committed to providing a piece of legislation that meets the needs of veterans from World War II as well as meeting the needs of current and future veterans of modern day deployments.

* Review Veterans' Affairs New Zealand to ensure it has a sound legal, financial and policy infrastructure that provides the best support and services to veterans.

Visit National's Veterans' Affairs policy at: http://national.org.nz/PDF_General/Veterans_Affairs_policy.pdf

Authorised by G Hamilton, Level 2, 262 Thorndon Quay, Wellington

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