Repatriation of New Zealand Service personnel to be expanded

The Government has extended an offer of repatriation to the families of all Service personnel, and their dependants, who were buried overseas after 1 January 1955.

“I know it’s incredibly important for the whanau of our Service personnel to know their loved ones are looked after,” says Minister for Veterans Ron Mark.

“I’m proud we have agreed to extend the offer of repatriation to the families of all Service personnel and dependents buried in Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, American Samoa, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Korea, after 1 January 1955. It is the right thing to do.

“Prior to 1955 it was Government policy to inter our fallen personnel overseas.  This changed, and between 1955 and 1971 personnel could be brought home at the cost of their family.

“Many families could not afford to bring their loved ones home and this caused pain and heartache, their families have lived with ever since.

“In 1971 the Government began picking up the bill.  But, it was not back dated to 1955 when the policy change occurred,” says Ron Mark.

Today’s announcement expands the decision made by the previous Government who offered repatriation for Service personnel buried in Malaysia and Singapore.

The Government has agreed to fund the repatriation and make a contribution of $1000 towards a memorial for those interred in a public or private ceremony.  If a family do not wish for their loved one to be repatriated, then the Government will continue to care for their grave overseas. 

“The New Zealand Defence Force are contacting families to discuss the next steps. They have also tabled a detailed plan to Cabinet for the repatriation which we have also approved,” says Ron Mark.

“The repatriations are planned to begin in May and all going well will be completed by October.  We want to make this process as dignified and as peaceful as possible for the families. I want to reassure them that the team from the Defence Force will take care of them, and their loved ones.  They are in good hands,” says Mr Mark. 

The total cost of the repatriations was originally expected to be $10m, but is now estimated to cost no more than $7m.