Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark issues apology to Vietnam veterans...

Helen Clark issues state apology to Vietnam veterans

Wed, 28 May 2008 02:29p.m.
Tv3 News, New Zealand.

Prime Minister Helen Clark has this afternoon made an official state apology to New Zealand’s veterans of the Vietnam conflict.

The apology for the “history of pain and suffering” experienced by many of the veterans and their families is intended to acknowledge the service of New Zealand’s personnel who were sent to the Vietnam conflict and the consequences of the that service – including the mental and physical health effects caused by exposure to “Agent Orange” and other chemical substances.

In the Crown apology Clark told Parliament that “the failure of successive governments and their agencies to acknowledge the exposure of veterans to dioxin, contaminated herbicides and other chemicals is itself acknowledged as is the way in which that failure exacerbated the suffering of veterans and [their] families.”
Read the full text of the apology speech as said by Helen Clark:

“The Crown formally acknowledges the dedicated service of the New Zealand Regular Force personnel deployed during the Vietnam War, and those many servicemen and women who supported them in their mission.

Further the Crown records that those armed forces personnel loyally served at the direction of the New Zealand Government of the day, having left their home shores against a background of unprecedented division and controversy over whether or not New Zealand should participate in the war.

The Crown extends to New Zealand Vietnam Veterans and their families an apology for the manner in which their loyal service in the name of New Zealand was not recognised as it should have been, when it should have been, and for inadequate support extended to them and their families after their return home from the conflict.

The Vietnam War was a defining event in New Zealand's recent history, and one during which significant divisions and tensions emerged within our own society.

Old allegiances and alliances were tested, and New Zealanders began to question the role their country was playing in global affairs.

On all sides, strong views were held with conviction. My own party, the New Zealand Labour Party, opposed New Zealand involvement in the war, and acted immediately to withdraw the troops on election to office in 1972.

Many others also spoke out, often coming under attack from the government and other establishment voices of the time for doing so.

Vietnam itself suffered huge damage from the war -- to its people, its cities and ports, and its countryside.

The consequences there have been long-term and intergenerational. Today we count Vietnam as an Asia Pacific partner, and welcome its leaders to our shores.

Today's focus, however, is on those who served, regardless of what our personal views on the decision to send them were. It is time for reconciliation.

The Crown is placing on record its respect for the service of the nearly 3400 New Zealanders who served in Vietnam during the war between June 1964 and December 1972.

We honour the 37 personnel who died on active duty, the 187 who were wounded, some very seriously, and all those who have suffered long-term effects.

The service of those who fell and all who served in that conflict should now be honoured, alongside that of other brave service personnel deployed to other conflicts in the service of our country.

For too long, successive governments ignored concerns being raised by Vietnam veterans.

It was the emergence of Agent Orange as a serious health and veterans' issue in the United States which began to change the way in which issues surrounding Vietnam veterans came to be perceived and then treated in New Zealand.

In 2003 the Health Select Committee undertook its own inquiry into the concerns raised by veterans.

It investigated whether New Zealand defence personnel had been exposed to Agent Orange.

It also assessed the health risks to defence personnel and their families, and the health services available to them.

The Committee concluded that New Zealand personnel who had served in Vietnam had indeed been exposed to Agent Orange, and that this exposure had had adverse health effects not only for the personnel themselves, but also for their children.

A Joint Working Group on the Concerns of Vietnam Veterans was established in July 2005, under the chairmanship of the former State Services Commissioner, Michael Wintringham.

The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association, and the Ex-Vietnam Services Association participated in the group.

In their report of April 2006, the Joint Working Group proposed that the Crown apologise formally to veterans and their families for the history of pain and suffering experienced by many of them.

That recommendation was accepted as part of a wider package of measures proposed under the themes of Acknowledging the Past, Putting Things Right, and Improving Services to Vietnam Veterans.

A range of steps under each of these headings was agreed.

Today the Crown has offered a formal apology to the New Zealand Veterans of the Vietnam war and their families.

The Crown places on record recognition of the service of those personnel; and acknowledges the many consequences of that service, including the physical and mental health effects.

The failure of successive governments and their agencies to acknowledge the exposure of veterans to dioxin contaminated herbicides and other chemicals is itself acknowledged, as is the way in which that failure exacerbated the suffering of veterans and families.

The recommendation of the Joint Working Group report that the earlier Reeves and McLeod reports should no longer form the basis for policies towards Vietnam veterans and their families is accepted by the Crown.

Finally, there is the commitment to put things right, where government action is the appropriate means of achieving that resolution.

The commitments the Crown has made to the treatment of Vietnam Veterans who were affected by toxic environments in Vietnam and to their families are set out in the Memorandum of Understanding of 6 December 2006, and the Crown will adhere to them.

In concluding, the Crown thanks the members of the Joint Working Group who provided a way forward for dealing with these troubling issues of New Zealand's relatively recent past.

This has led to the opportunity for the Crown to put on record its thanks for, and its apology to, those brave service personnel who became the Veterans of the Vietnam war, and to pay tribute to those who never came home.

We will remember them!

As a brother and brother-in-law of Vietnam veterans now dead, I accept this apology on their and our whanau's behalf.

What was acceptable then is not acceptable today in an ever changing society. We have to put the past behind us and move on. We will remember them!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A geographical and historical meander around the Hutt Valley, Wellington, NZ...

A geographical and historical meander around the Hutt Valley,Wellington, New Zealand...

First published at Qassia:

The Hutt Valley is the large area of fairly flat land in the Hutt River valley in the Wellington region of New Zealand. Like the river that flows through it, it takes its name from Sir William Hutt, a director of the New Zealand Company in early colonial New Zealand.

The river flows roughly along the course of an active geologic fault, which continues to the south to become the main instrument responsible for the uplift of the South Island's Southern Alps. For this reason, the land rises abruptly to the west of the river; to the east two floodplains have developed. The higher of these is between 15 and 22 km from the mouth of the river. Beyond this, the river is briefly confined by a steep-sided gorge near Taita (aptly pronounced "tighter"), before the land opens up into a long triangular plain close to the outflow into Wellington Harbour.

The lower valley contains the city of Lower Hutt, administered by Hutt City Council, while the adjacent, larger but less populous city of Upper Hutt has its centre on the smaller plain above the Taita Gorge. The valley forms a major dormitory suburban area for Wellington, and is a location for manufacturing and heavy industry, educational and recreational facilities, and the region's motor camps.

Petone, now part of Lower Hutt City, on the Wellington Harbour shoreline, was proposed as the initial site for the settlement of Wellington by the Wellington Company. However, as the chosen site was soon seen to be prone to river flooding, early settlement was relocated to Wellington. A small settlement remained at the Petone site as the whole valley was believed to be well suited as farm land.

In 1846 there was fighting between Māori tribes and the Government, known as the Hutt Valley Campaign.

Almost the whole valley was clearfelled and converted to pasture or market gardens before the urbanisation of the 20th century. A small remnant of the early podocarp forest is preserved in Barton's Bush in Upper Hutt.

Watch video

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Its budget day in NZ and the drums for change are beating...

Its budget day in New Zealand and the third term Labour Government is struggling in the polls, and there are widespread calls for tax cuts, pushed by an opposition hungry for power after nine years in the political wilderness.

The Minister of Finance, Michael Cullen, has to juggle between appeasing the wider electorate's expectations of tax cuts, and a balance of responsible economic management. It is his ninth budget and finally he will have to give some tax cuts which have not been his part of his economic management previously; he has targeted assistance to where he believed it was needed, after the billions of dollars needed in health, education and the social area. The proverbial cat has nine lives; has Michael Cullen run out of lives?

Will it be enough to appease a struggling electorate, or will the beating drums for change prove too strong and a right of centre administration be returned in six months time? Only time will tell the tale here.

Budget Story

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Insulation upgrade of state houses badly needed...

May 2008 re: NZ CITY, NewstalkZB News

State house tenants say the sooner the Government starts insulating their homes, the better.

This week's Budget will include $53 million to make all state houses warmer and dryer within five years.

Peter Petterson has been in his state house in the Lower Hutt suburb of Taita for a number of years now and says the upgrade is much needed. Houses will be insulated against the cold. State houses are particulourly damp at their southern ends.

"They are cold, you've got to use heaters. Some of the older people stick on some more clothes and blankets."

Mr Petterson says it is a shame the upgrade is happening after his children have grown up and moved out, but at least his grandchildren will benefit when they come to stay.

The Labour - led Government is to be congratulated for the impending upgrades on state houses. National had the opportunity during the 1990's to insulate houses but chose just to redecorate them to assist in its privatisation programe to sell off state houses.

Watch video

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A reply to my letter to the NZ Government relating to illegal logging...

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your message regarding timber imports and illegal logging.

I share your concerns over the sale of illegal timber in New Zealand and the government is taking practical steps to do something about it.

Over the next few months we will be conducting an assessment of the practicality of introducing a regulatory requirement for suppliers to produce evidence that wood products are sourced from a legally harvested forest. In addition we will be working to encourage stronger public and private sector awareness and action to help address this problem.

In future the government will require its own departments to seek timber and wood products from legally harvested sources and to take all reasonable steps to ensure that those products are from sustainably managed forests.

In addition, our policy recognises the need to work with other countries to find long term solutions to help stop illegal logging at its source. Currently my officials are drafting a comprehensive strategy for international engagement to help guide this work.

Illegal logging is a complex problem and it will take time and effort to address it. But we are committed to doing that through the goals that we have set ourselves.

For more information on the illegal logging policy you may like to visit: Ministry of Agriculture andd Forestry Website
Yours sincerely

Jim Anderton
Minister of Forestry
M P for Wigram and Leader of the Progressive Party

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mongrel Mob episode of gang series not aired in NZ...

Maori culture has been linked to criminal gang behaviour in a documentary on the Mongrel Mob, part of an award-winning British series on the world's most notorious gangs.

The Mongrel Mob episode will not be aired in New Zealand something which has been widely debated. TV1 is screening the third series of Ross Kemp on Gangs but says it could not buy the episode because it was never cleared for international distribution.

However, it is understood that before Mob members would agree to be filmed, they signed a contract with the British producers preventing the show screening here. Canterbury University associate professor of sociology Greg Newbold was involved in the documentary's research and production and he understood there was such an agreement.

He said the contract would have been signed because Mob members did not know how they would be portrayed and they would have wanted to protect themselves against bad publicity.

The programme, which has appeared on UK television and is available on the internet, has sparked debate around the anti-social consequences of Maori identifying with a "warrior" culture.

It comes less than two years since New Zealand scientist Rod Lea controversially found an over-representation of a so-called "warrior" gene in Maori men. The gene was supposed to predispose people to risk-taking and antisocial behaviour.

Mongrel Mob members spoken to by host Ross Kemp British soap opera star turned journalist attribute their blood lust to a Maori fighting tradition.

Kemp explores the history of the gang, which was formed in Hastings in the 1960s. He follows members into clubhouses around the North Island, and examines their feud with the Black Power gang.

He interviews victims, including the mother of 16-year-old Colleen Burrows who was brutally kicked and beaten to death by Mob members in Napier in 1987.

Members also boast about putting women "on the block", stabbings and other acts of violence.