Call for Govt to fulfil obligations to vets

By Dean Nathan

Claimants to the Waitangi Tribunal are concerned that the government continues to send NZ troops to conflicts overseas while neglecting to fulfil its obligations to veterans from previous wars. On day two former Northland soldiers presented their claims in Tūmatauenga meeting house at Otiria Marae.

Veterans attended to represent their comrades who weren't able to make it here due to illness.

“I've come to support my comrades. One of them lives just down road, Graham Tautari. He's been very sick for nearly three years but the government has forgotten about him, despite seeing action in Malaya,” says former veteran Hohepa Matene.

Claimant groups are concerned that the government will continue to send troops to places of conflict without addressing the ills from previous wars.

Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Wood from Ngati Rua says “Our elders who returned from war have all but passed on, but they (government) are still keen to send our children and grandchildren to conflicts overseas.  But they need to remember the elders and address the issues from previous wars that continue to affect us.”

Under a new protocol known as Taonga Tuku Iho, members of the Waitangi Tribunal itself were able to ask questions of the claimants. Crown lawyers and claimants will get an opportunity to cross-examine at a later hearing.

“They returned from war carrying issues on their shoulders and were taken away from us before their time. I hope that by coming here that I can tell government that they have left descendants behind so what are government going to do to assist them?, “ says Nau Epiha.

“It's a major issue for me because my own children and grandchildren have inherited the diseases that I have,” says Matene.

This Tribunal hearing winds up on Friday.