New Zealand Law Society - Veterans' Support Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament

Veterans' Support Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament

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Veterans Minister Ron Mark has introduced the Veterans' Support Amendment Bill to Parliament.

The bill amends section 9 of the Veterans' Support Act 2014 to provide for the making of declarations in relation to historical deployments.

An explanatory note to the bill says that when the 2014 principal Act was passed in 2014 it was intended that the responsible Minister could make declarations of qualifying operational service before, during, or after deployments. It says the legislation has been interpreted accordingly, and a number of deployments, which had originally been considered against the criteria that applied under previous legislation, have been reassessed under the new criteria now in place, to ensure equity and consistency for all who have served. Further such assessments are under way.

Advice has now been received which indicates that the interpretation of section 9 could not be stretched to provide jurisdiction to make declarations in respect of historical (retrospective) deployments (ie, deployments that have already ceased). There is also a strong indication that section 9 may apply only to deployments that begin after the date the new legislation commenced.

Since 2015, Ministers have made 14 historical declarations, covering multiple missions and geographical areas. These affect approximately 675 veterans, spouses, and family members (including families of service personnel killed in action).

Work now under way in Veterans’ Affairs—and widely promulgated to veterans—is a continuation of this work. The first tranche of the programme has considered 39 deployments in 3 geographical areas. It could result in declarations that would extend entitlements to around 1,600 veterans. There are further tranches to be examined which would be likely to create additional entitlements for veterans not currently covered by the legislation.

The bill would come into force on the day after it receives the Royal assent.