Story: Veterans’ assistance

The government has often assisted war veterans onto farms and into work, as well as providing rehabilitation and pensions where needed. However, veterans of some conflicts have had to campaign to receive government support.

Story by Mark Derby
Main image: Ralph Caradus and Phil Smith at the Montecillo veterans' home, Dunedin, 2009

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War pensions

After the New Zealand wars of the 1860s pensions were granted to disabled or wounded soldiers and to the families of those who had died. Māori who fought for the government were eligible, but received a lower rate.

A bigger pension scheme was set up during the First World War because of the large number of troops and casualties. For Second World War veterans, pension rates were improved and it became easier to receive compensation.

In 2011 Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand was responsible for war pensions.

Returning to work

The government has also supported war veterans to return to work after military service. Rural land has often been granted to ex-servicemen for farming. Confiscated Māori land was given to some veterans of the New Zealand wars.

First World War veterans were allocated farmland under a ballot system. However, some had little farming experience, and the farms were often in remote areas or on poor land.

The Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment League was set up in 1931 to provide rehabilitation and employment to veterans. Businesses were encouraged to employ disabled former soldiers.

Second World War veterans received low-interest loans for businesses, houses and furniture, as well as training. Almost 14,000 were helped to acquire farms.

Medical rehabilitation

In 1903 the Ranfurly War Veterans Home and Hospital opened in Auckland, to treat war veterans. Two more hospitals opened to deal with the number of casualties from the First World War.

Veterans with psychological problems such as ‘shell shock’ were sent to mental hospitals, but after a public outcry, a special hospital was opened for them – Queen Mary’s Military Hospital in Hanmer Springs. The Red Cross ran homes and work training for injured and sick ex-servicemen.

More than 500 New Zealand navy personnel took part in British atomic bomb tests near Kiribati in 1957–58. Many developed health problems, and some of their children were born with deformities. The government funded their medical care.

Some Vietnam War troops were exposed to the chemical Agent Orange, resulting in health problems. They campaigned for compensation, and in 2006 the government agreed to give them medical and other compensation.

How to cite this page:

Mark Derby, 'Veterans’ assistance', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 February 2024)

Story by Mark Derby, published 20 Jun 2012