Where does the money go?
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.
Robbie, 13, touches up a silver fern on a war veteran’s grave.