Timor-Leste is provided with more support while veterans’ families in Gisborne are presented with medals

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta got a slice of action on the international front at the weekend, but not with an announcement as vituperative as Andrew Little’s rebuke of the Russians.

Mahuta’s task was much more in line with the PM’s fondness for improving the wellbeing of anybody whose wellbeing could do with a lift.

In this case, the government is providing further support to Timor-Leste following severe flooding and a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

The only other weekend statement from the Beehive came from another Maori minister, Meka Whaitiri, who holds the Veterans portfolio.

Her news would have been of special interest to voters in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, the electorate which she represents in Parliament.

She announced a ceremony had been held in Gisborne where the unclaimed medals of 28 (Māori) Battalion C Company soldiers were presented to their families. 

In her foreign affairs statement, Nanaia Mahuta said:

“Our thoughts are with the people of Timor-Leste who have been impacted by the severe flooding and landslides at a time when the country is also managing the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.”

To assist with flood response efforts New Zealand will provide essential relief items including mother and infant kits, solar lanterns, water purification tablets, water pumps, petrol generators, collapsible water containers and family hygiene kits.

NZ will also provide a range of additional Personal Protective Equipment items to help ensure health workers can treat COVID-19 patients safely. These supplies will be delivered via a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130.

Emergency funding has been made available to enable the New Zealand Embassy to respond rapidly to local needs, Mahuta said, and New Zealand is supporting the World Food Programme’s activities for transportation and distribution of relief items across Dili and impacted districts.

The government will also provide up to $1 million for New Zealand non-government organisations to support the response through their local partners in Timor-Leste for relief and early recovery assistance.

The support announced at the weekend is in addition to the $3 million in COVID-19 related assistance New Zealand has previously provided to Timor-Leste. This included the provision of PPE, and grants for NGO initiatives to raise community awareness and reduce lockdown impacts by strengthening food security.    

Meka Whaitiri – in her statement about the medals ceremony – recalled that after the Second World War, returning service personnel were required to apply for their medals, which would be posted out to them. 

While most medals were issued in the early 1950s, others have been claimed by Service personnel or their descendants over the last 70 years. 

Approximately 15 per cent of all those who served in the Second World War have not claimed their medals.  

New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archives and Medals has been working with lawyer David Stone since March 2019 on the unclaimed medals of C Company 28 Maori Battalion.

PAM checked service files and advised Stone of the issued and unclaimed medals for each serviceperson (well done the Minister for her choice of gender-neutral language). This work was concluded in September 2020. 

More than 900 records were checked and 137 medals found to be unclaimed, with more than 65 of these being presented at the weekend ceremony.

The Gisborne event follows a similar ceremony at Pakipaki in the Hawke’s Bay (and also in the Minister’s electorate)  earlier this year.

From the Beehive –

18 APRIL 2021

New Zealand provides support to Timor-Leste for flooding and COVID-19 surge

17 APRIL 2021



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