The Government needs to swot up on its geography after a war veteran was told he wasn’t eligible for help with travel costs to the Chathams to visit his daughter because the journey was ‘over international water’, Labour Rongotai MP Annette King says.
In a letter to Mrs King retired army officer Ian Thorpe says he was informed he didn’t qualify for a concession - which allows veterans with 70 per cent disablement to claim a certain amount for car, bus or plane journeys– because the Chathams were outside of New Zealand’s “three main islands”.
“The Chatham Islands have officially been part of New Zealand since 1842,” Mrs King says.
“If the Government has decided that’s no longer the case then they should have let on.
“On the other hand, if this is just some officious bureaucrat trying to penny-pinch, then they owe Mr Thorpe an apology at the very least.
“Not only that but the ocean between the mainland and the Chathams is not ‘international water’ – it’s part of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone and contains some of our best fishing grounds.
“The latest census shows there is twice the number of people living on the Chathams than on Stewart Island. The population of 600 makes a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economy.
“Mr Thorpe, having served for 30 years in the New Zealand Army, has made a similar contribution to this country. As he notes there are probably only a handful of veterans who would ever want to access the concession to travel to the islands.
“In the meantime Veterans Affairs Minister Craig Foss might want to get the atlas out.”