Injured soldiers denied more compo

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 16:35 12/12/2013

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The Government has refused further compensation for two brothers who suffered serious injuries in separate army training accidents.

Damien and George Nepata have been fighting for compensation for two decades after initially receiving ACC payouts but no compensation from the Government for their injuries.

Damien suffered burns to almost half of his body when the tank he was driving crashed and caught fire in 1994, while George broke his neck when he was dropped by soldiers carrying him up a hill on a stretcher five years earlier, leaving him a tetraplegic.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said today that the Government would not pay further compensation after another submission by the brothers to Parliament's Maori affairs select committee this year.

"I know today's decision will be disappointing for George and Damien Nepata," he said.

"While I have huge sympathy for the brothers, who were tragically injured in two separate incidents, it is clear there have been no substantive changes to their case since Cabinet considered the issue 10 years ago."

Coleman said the case had been thoroughly examined, with the brothers petitioning Parliament twice, including appearing before the Maori Affairs committee this year.

In 2003, a select committee found that the brothers had received the bare minimum and recommended further compensation, although the then-Labour government decided against it.

"The brothers received the appropriate entitlements under ACC legislation and they received their full legal entitlement to NZDF [New Zealand Defence Force] benefits," Coleman said.

"It is also not possible to distinguish between the situation of the Nepata brothers and numerous other people who have been injured in the service of New Zealand who have received appropriate compensation."

The Defence Force declined to comment.

Independent MP Brendan Horan said the announcement "shows the National Party doesn't care about the men and women who are our armed forces".

"The decision shows absolute contempt for Parliament and the select committee process," he said.

"The Maori affairs select committee examined the evidence, heard from all parties, including the Nepata whanau, and made a unanimous recommendation for the brothers to be awarded additional compensation for their injuries and subsequent hardship.

"I am disgusted, outraged and appalled."

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