5 Oct 2016

Govt to look at bringing fallen soldiers home

3:23 pm on 5 October 2016

The government is to investigate whether it should repatriate the bodies of military personnel who died overseas between 1948 and 1970.

There has been renewed pressure on the government to bring back the bodies of 31 soldiers killed in Malaysia and Vietnam, since Australia brought its men back a few months ago.

Paul Thomas' brother Adrian Raymond Thomas, who was killed in action in 1956 while serving in the NZSAS in Malaya.

Adrian Raymond Thomas was killed in action in 1956 while serving in the NZ SAS in Malaya. Photo: Supplied

Veterans' Affairs Minister Craig Foss has directed the Veterans' Advisory Board to consider whether New Zealand's long-standing policy should change.

He said it had become increasingly clear that the rationale behind the policy to not repatriate the bodies needed further investigation.

The board will meet before mid-November and will report back to the minister before the end of March next year.

Families of the fallen soldiers gave submissions at a select committee on the issue last month, saying it was "the honourable thing to do".

Mr Foss said the families would be consulted on any plans.

"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."

The Veterans' Advisory Board will look at the logistics of bringing the bodies back, including legal issues, cost and cultural implications, as well as any impact on New Zealand's relationship with the relevant countries.

Two additional appointments to the board will also be made to handle the workload.

It has been estimated it would cost about $350,000 to bring back the New Zealand soldiers home.

All New Zealanders who died during service overseas since mid-1970 have been repatriated.

Repatriation was last considered by the Labour government in 2007, which decided against any changes.

Last year, Prime Minister John Key ruled out bringing home the soldiers.

The Australian government repatriated soldiers buried in Malaysia this year.

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