Former soldier paralysed in training exercise finally wins decades-long battle for justice

A former solider left paralysed when a training exercise went wrong has finally won his three-decade-long battle for justice.

George Nepata, centre, before his accident. Source: Supplied

The Government has apologised to George Nepata, who was left a tetraplegic after a freak accident in Singapore in 1989.

It has now accepted it failed to provide a safe work environment and a confidential payment will also be made.

Minister of Defence Ron Mark said the act may provide some closure for George and his whānau.

"This is an issue I've continued to raise over the past 20 years - I've felt strongly that the Government has had a moral obligation to address this and I'm pleased there has finally been a resolution," Mr Mark said.

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The Government apologised today to George Nepata, who was left tetraplegic after a freak accident in 1989. Source: 1 NEWS

"This apology reflects the fact that as a junior soldier George was obliged to obey the commands of his superiors during the exercise and had no opportunity to challenge the conduct of the exercise.

"The apology also acknowledges the efforts and costs associated with his petitions to Parliament, but most importantly it recognises the burden and struggles that George, his wife Kim and his wider whānau and family have borne since the accident."

Mr Mark said the injury he suffered was "totally avoidable and unnecessary".

"I hope this apology from the Government and New Zealand Defence Force, and the ex gratia payment, will help George to continue to make the best of the situation, as he has done for so long."

George, along with his brother Damien who was injured in a separate incident where he received burns to 40 per cent of his body during a tank crash in Waiouru in 1994, has been campaigning for compensation over the years, but it had been repeatedly denied.

They even took their case to the Waitangi Tribunal.

Today, Damien told 1 NEWS there was about five minutes of silence when he got the news.

"It's 50 per cent, literally 50 per cent of my lifetime that this has been going on so for it to come to a sudden grinding halt it was a stunned reaction and it took maybe a day or two for some of it to sink in. I don't think it's completely sunk in, not for George at least anyway.

"I think because we've had disappointment in the past, you know, I think once all the paperwork has been out through and everything's been signed, the i's dotted, the t's crossed and the money's in the bank, then perhaps we might accept that this is actually really happening.

"At the moment it's still a little bit surreal."

From the day he was discharged from hospital, Damien said George and his family had been in a financial struggle due to his disability - especially now as he nears retirement age.

"That's one less anxiety that he has to live with."

Damien was thankful his injuries didn't put him out of work like his brother, but he said financial pressure for George had been on his mind all those years.

Damien has received an apology, but no payment himself. He said he was disappointed, but comfortable given he was able to keep a stable job since his accident.

Damien hoped the authorities involved would make changes following the incidents.

"I really would like to think that they have been able to look deep within themselves and say, 'Actually, how we operated in the past wasn't right so lets think about how we operate going forward,'" he said.

"As long as it's better, at least that's progress."

Former soldier George Nepata speaking to ONE News. Source: 1 NEWS