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Remembrance Army fighting to maintain fallen soldiers memorials

A volunteer organisation that restores and cleans war graves is saddened by the state of the nations war memorials and plaques, and is calling on the Government for help.

Maintaining service cemeteries is currently the responsibility of local councils and contractors, but their hands can be tied when it comes to headstones which are technically private property.

Norsewood local Kathryn Mulinder, of the New Zealand Remembrance Army, has been on a cleanliness campaign after discovering her local war cemetery is disarray, with many graves covered in moss and grime, damaged and unreadable.

"I sat down and cried," she told 1 News. "It was saddening and it was actually very emotional to see that these proud men had been left to decay in such a state."

She, along with others in her army, work when they can to restore returned servicemen memorials throughout the country.

"What’s a couple of hours or days or even weeks out of my life to what they gave?" she said.

Simon Stombom, also of the New Zealand Remembrance Army, wants to keep soldiers stories alive by maintaining their memorials.

"These are graves are of extraordinary New Zealanders in extraordinary times, you know, and we need to tell these stories and they are fading away," he said.

There are more than 180 service cemeteries in New Zealand, with about 400,000 headstones and plaques, but many have either been forgotten by family members or have no one left to care for them.

The Remembrance Army want to see a war graves commission established to streamline the process.

"It would give statutory coverage to the volunteers going into the graves it would also set a series of standards agreed standards and agreed processes," Mr Stombom said.

Veteran’s Affairs has met with the group to try and better co-ordinate restoration efforts, but the minister in charge isn’t convinced a commission is needed.

Ron Mark, of Veteran’s Affairs, said he would need to see evidence that it was a necessary response and would do better than the current structures in place.

"It’s clear that people haven’t been performing as well as they should have buts it’s also clear that resources have always been limited," he said.

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There are calls for the Government to help by a volunteer organisation that restores the graves. Source: 1 NEWS


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