The three New Zealand Defence Force personnel who were repatriated from Fiji have arrived in New Zealand.
They arrived in New Zealand in a Hercules aircraft yesterday. George Beban died of natural causes 62 years ago while serving in Fiji. Ralph Scott died of natural causes 58 years ago while serving in Fiji. Russell Moore died in an accident on board survey vessel HMNZS Lachlan in American Samoa 62 years ago.
Yesterday was an emotional reunion for family members who never believed they’d ever be offered the opportunity to bring their loved one home.
Russ Beban, just five years old when his father George died, said it was one of the best days of his life and “beyond his wildest dreams.”
George Beban will be re-buried in his hometown of Waikanae following a service on Saturday.
Colleen Walker, who still remembers being nine years old on stage at her primary school assembly when she found out her brother Russell had died, said having him home brings closure.
Minister for Veterans Ron Mark said inequity and heartbreak was created from a past government decision, where from 1955 until 1971 families had to pay to return the remains of their relative to New Zealand. Many bodies remained abroad as only some people could afford it.
He said the project and the Government’s extension of the offer of repatriation to several other countries was the right thing to do and should have been done a long time ago.
Repatriation has been a government cost for fallen service personnel from 1971.
The project is expected to cost $7 million. Families are being given $1000 to help with reinternment costs.
This was a special moment for their respective families in New Zealand.