Where does the money go?

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs paid $1,503,000 to­wards the up­keep of 183 ser­vice ceme­ter­ies across New Zealand in the 2017/18 fi­nan­cial year.

The to­tal in­cludes $392,000 for re­pair and devel­op­ment work to sub­con­trac­tors, one be­ing Bronze Plaques NZ.

Bronze Plaques NZ was also paid $30,000 for in­spec­tions of ceme­ter­ies, and re­ceived a share of Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs $761,000 given to con­trac­tors for plaques and head­stones, for the same time pe­riod.

An an­nual grant of up to $320,000 was paid to six lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

These are mostly coun­cils, al­though six ser­vices ceme­ter­ies are man­aged by lo­cal Royal New Zealand Re­turned and Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tions, five by ceme­tery boards, and one by the NZDF. The amount is a con­tri­bu­tion, and is based on ceme­tery size. While the grant cov­ers main­te­nance costs, like lawn mow­ing and other mi­nor main­te­nance, it does not cover clean­ing plaques.

Dur­ing the course of the Sun­day News in­ves­ti­ga­tion, at­ti­tudes to­wards the Re­mem­brance Army have var­ied from out­right at­tempts to thwart clean­ing par­ties, to more wel­com­ing, al­beit still bu­reau­cratic, hoops to jump through.

All par­ties are hop­ing for a more cohesive ap­proach to main­tain­ing the graves, and dis­cussed a fu­ture di­rec­tion at two re­cent meet­ings.

The meet­ings in­cluded CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF

the Re­mem­brance Army, the Min­istry for Cul­ture and Her­itage, the RSA, the Ceme­ter­ies and Cre­ma­to­ria Col­lec­tive, and the ma­sons as­so­ci­a­tion.

‘‘These meet­ings aimed to en­cour­age a co­or­di­nated ap­proach, en­sure all health and safety re­quire­ments are met, ev­ery­one un­der­stands the com­plex­i­ties in­volved,’’ a Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs spokesper­son says.

Bronze Plaques NZ was not at the meet­ings. Most agen­cies are prais­ing the works of Strom­bom and his team, who are still do­ing the work for free.

In To­laga Bay, long af­ter the rain clouds have closed in, mem­bers of the Re­mem­brance Army fin­ish up the last of the grave­stones.

When they ar­rived, the lichen-stained grave­stones were dark and un­read­able. As they leave, the name, rank and se­rial num­ber of ser­vice­men and women beam brightly, each read­able from 15 me­tres away.

To New Zealand Re­mem­brance Army mem­bers, it feels like bring­ing some­one

back to life.

Vet­eran Bob Der­win cleans the grave of a mate who died in an ac­ci­dent af­ter re­turn­ing from Viet­nam.

CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF

Rob­bie, 13, touches up a sil­ver fern on a war vet­eran’s grave.

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