6 October 2004
Veterans' Affairs Minister welcomes defoliant report
Veterans Affairs Minister George Hawkins today welcomed a select committee report into the exposure of New Zealand
Defence personnel to Agent Orange and other defoliant chemicals during the Vietnam War.
Mr Hawkins said he was pleased that veterans’ concerns about the health impacts of being exposed to defoliants had been
“The government will examine the health committee’s findings and report to Parliament on its recommendations,” he said.
“While previous governments acknowledged that New Zealand troops had operated in areas where defoliants were used, it
was the Labour-Progressive Government that insisted on a proper investigation.
“The government acknowledges that New Zealand Defence personnel served their country in what was an extremely difficult
environment, and we had a responsibility to ensure that their claims were heard.”
Mr Hawkins said the New Zealand War Pension system enabled veterans to claim for any disability they believed
attributable or aggravated by their service. "Our approach is unique because, unlike comparable countries, New Zealand
does not restrict veterans' claims to a specified list of disabilities. The approach recognises the impact of service on
an individual's health and wellbeing, as well as their quality of life post-service.
"New Zealand's war pension coverage takes account of the physical, psychological and environmental risks veterans' have
faced, and recognises that defoliants and other chemicals used in Vietnam did create risks to the health and wellbeing
of those who served there,” Mr Hawkins said.
Veterans were able to access a case management system designed to address the broader needs of veterans and their
The report indicates that services on offer to veterans' are generally sound, however, the Government notes that more
work should take place to inform veterans' about what was available to them.