Veterans’ board to consider repatriation

  • Craig Foss
Veterans’ Affairs

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Craig Foss has directed the Veterans’ Advisory Board (VAB) to consider New Zealand’s repatriation policy and provide advice to him.

New Zealand has a longstanding policy of not repatriating the bodies of military personnel who died while serving overseas between 1948 and mid-1970.

“While successive governments have maintained this policy, it has become increasingly clear that the rationale behind it needs further investigation,” Mr Foss says.

“I am therefore asking the VAB to consider the current policy on repatriation and provide advice to me.  I have asked that its advice cover issues including (but not limited to):

  • The wishes of the next of kin of those buried overseas;
  • Culture — both New Zealand cultural considerations such as tikanga Maori, and the culture of the countries in which the service personnel are buried;
  • Technical matters and logistics;
  • The impact of any proposed changes on New Zealand’s bilateral relationships with relevant countries and how to best manage foreign policy considerations;
  • The lessons learned from the 2016 repatriation of someAustralian service personnel from Malaysia and Singapore;
  • Legal issues;
  • Cost.

“The Board will meet before 15 November and I have asked for initial advice before the end of March 2017.

“I have always said I am the Minister for all veterans.  While many of those advocating for change are focussed on the personnel buried in Malaysia, I expect the Board to consider the policy in relation to all veterans and dependents who died while serving overseas between 1948 and mid-1970.

“I expect the Board to thoroughly consult the families of personnel buried overseas.  Their experiences and stories are vital to ensuring a robust and fair process, with the right outcome.”

Mr Foss will make two additional appointments to VAB for the duration of its work on this issue.

Since mid-1970, all New Zealanders who have died during operational service have been repatriated. Repatriation was last considered by the Labour Government in 2007, which decided against any changes.