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‘New Zealand should say sorry’ – sailors posted to watch nuclear tests

RNZ Jimmy Ellingham, Manawatū reporter, 1 May 23

New Zealand sailors exposed to British nuclear tests in the Pacific in the 1950s remain unhappy they have never had a government apology for being placed in harm’s way.

On the weekend the veterans, now aged at least in their 80s, held a reunion in Palmerston North.

For many of them it could be their last chance to catch up with their mates from Operation Grapple, which happened in 1957 and 1958, when New Zealand vessels HMNZS Pukaki and Rotoiti observed tests near Christmas Island, now part of Kiribati……………………………….

In the mid-1990s, Tahi and fellow veteran, the late Roy Sefton, organised the first reunion in Palmerston North, which revealed four decades of suffering.

“They stood up and spoke about the defects they had with their children, and that was terrible.

“A guy stood up and said, ‘How come I lost my two boys? They were 18 years old. They had cancer.’ He was carrying the genes, you see.”

Sefton and Tahi led the veterans’ association and have lobbied successive governments for an apology for being exposed to radiation, to no avail……………

The lack of acknowledgement from New Zealand’s government was particularly frustrating for the veterans, given the effects the tests had on them were confirmed by a scientific study.

It was done by now-retired Massey University associate professor Dr Al Rowland.

“I conducted a big research programme on the nuclear test veterans and I discovered alarming evidence of long-term genetic damage.”

This damage was a consequence of Operation Grapple, he said.

Rowland is the veterans’ association patron and he said it saddened him that they still had not received an apology.

“What we are looking for is recognition of the research, from the government.

“The international scientific community have accepted the work and I’ve received a lot of plaudits. In fact, I received an ONZM for the research from John Key’s government.”

Despite that, he said the veterans’ association had regular meetings with ministers, but was making no progress.

Roy Sefton died two years ago, but down the years he fought for pensions for veterans and their families, said his daughter, Anu………………………………………


May 1, 2023 - Posted by | health, New Zealand

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