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Veterans' Minister welcomes defoliant report

6 October 2004

Veterans' Affairs Minister welcomes defoliant report

Veterans Affairs Minister George Hawkins today welcomed a select committee report into the exposure of New Zealand Defence personnel to Agent Orange and other defoliant chemicals during the Vietnam War.

Mr Hawkins said he was pleased that veterans’ concerns about the health impacts of being exposed to defoliants had been thoroughly investigated.

“The government will examine the health committee’s findings and report to Parliament on its recommendations,” he said.

“While previous governments acknowledged that New Zealand troops had operated in areas where defoliants were used, it was the Labour-Progressive Government that insisted on a proper investigation.

“The government acknowledges that New Zealand Defence personnel served their country in what was an extremely difficult environment, and we had a responsibility to ensure that their claims were heard.”

Mr Hawkins said the New Zealand War Pension system enabled veterans to claim for any disability they believed attributable or aggravated by their service. "Our approach is unique because, unlike comparable countries, New Zealand does not restrict veterans' claims to a specified list of disabilities. The approach recognises the impact of service on an individual's health and wellbeing, as well as their quality of life post-service.

"New Zealand's war pension coverage takes account of the physical, psychological and environmental risks veterans' have faced, and recognises that defoliants and other chemicals used in Vietnam did create risks to the health and wellbeing of those who served there,” Mr Hawkins said.

Veterans were able to access a case management system designed to address the broader needs of veterans and their families.

The report indicates that services on offer to veterans' are generally sound, however, the Government notes that more work should take place to inform veterans' about what was available to them.

ENDS

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