Thursday, July 18, 2024

NZDF tribunal hears from Māori military veterans

The New Zealand Defence Force is this week taking part in the first hearing of the Wai 2500 Military Veterans Kaupapa Inquiry into claims involving past Māori military service.

The Waitangi Tribunal inquiry extends to all types of military service, whether operational or routine, in time of war or peace, and at home or abroad; undertaken directly for, or on behalf, of the Crown of New Zealand or the Imperial Crown in New Zealand.

The purposes of the inquiry, in addition to determining the Treaty of Waitangi consistency of Crown conduct, is also to prepare an official narrative that will put Māori experiences of military service for the Crown on public record, and consider how to improve support for veterans and current serving personnel.

This is the second phase of hearings after oral evidence was heard in 2016.

The WAI 2500 hearing is taking place at Tūnohopū Marae in Rotorua.

During this hearing week, claims will be heard relating to Korea and South East Asia (1950s-1990s), Antarctic operations, nuclear testing, the Afghanistan War and peacekeeping (1950s-2010s) and current Crown policy and practice in relation to concerns raised by Māori ex-service people and/or their whānau.

The first day in Rotorua was opened by Tā Robert ‘Bom’ Gillies, the last surviving member of the 28 (Maori) Battalion.

Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short, attended the first day and said it was an important step forward in acknowledging the experiences people had when serving.

“It’s crucial we support this opportunity for our veterans and their whānau, acknowledge them and their stories, explain what the Crown knew at the time and what it knows now,” he said.

“This enables us to not only consider how we can effectively support all of our veterans who have left service, but those who are currently serving too.”

Air Marshal Short said the Kaupapa Inquiry can inform potential improvements in the current implementation of veterans’ and service people’s support measures.

“This is the right thing to do for our people. We are listening, engaging and acknowledging our past to inform and protect our future.”

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