A report by Roy Sefton, Chair NZNTVA.

During my 2002 visit to address an international conference at the Senate Paris, a group comprising of French nuclear test veterans, and Tahitian test site workers, asked me to attend a meeting they were having with a .French Government Minister. From the moment the Minister entered the room it was clear that he had no respect for the group and their dignity. I was absolutely shocked at what my translator was telling me.

The Minister did not listen to the group, and he left the meeting abruptly and without a thank you. We were clearly interrupting his day. The group members, some of whom had travelled from the other side of the world, were disgusted by their treatment.

In NZNTVA's political experiences with New Zealand Government's, We have not encountered the pointed dismissal such as that of the French Minister.. Rather, NZNTVA, and consequently the veterans, have, in a cloaked manner, been subjected to the same lack of respect and dignity. The Veterans Affairs NZ Secretary for War Pensions initially set the agenda of political denial. He advised Dr Rowland that his research would not be accepted because it had not formally been approved by VANZ. That political denial was such, that when a Government Group of 12 national and international academics reviewed the Massey study and supported the mFISH finding of irradiation of the veterans, it was dismissed by Government.

The most insidious form of disrespect to the veterans is Government's obvious lack of interest in considering their research concerns. When meeting with Ministers, there is a delegation from VANZ and others, taking copious notes. What reliance does the Minister have on them. More importantly if they are advisers, are they qualified in the field? In the 12 years since the Massey Cytogenetic Analysis was released, Ministers have responded to NZNTVA's concerns with letters padded with unrelated comment and with no attempt to mention the issues NZNTVA raised. In effect the veterans were being treated like fools. There was no respect for their dignity.

In November 2017, NZNTVA raised the issue of a flawed 2013 summary document with Minister Mark, and D/PM Winston Peters, who had previously directed us to the Minister. Having not received any information from the Minister, NZNTVA and Dr Al Rowland met with him in July of 2018. Still no information was received. In 2019 NZNTVA asked the Minister for an update. No response. A more recent request for information did draw a response from the Minister. He gave Dr Rowland the right of reply to the errors contained in the 2013 Summary document. However, yet again no comment was directed at the veterans concerns of political recognition of the Massey research finding of irradiation of the NZ Operation Grapple veterans.

The Minister who also holds the Defence portfolio, is a busy man. But he is also responsible for veterans. We within NZNTVA are of the opinion that from November 2017, when we raised our concerns, no political consideration at all was given to our issues. We were left to fade away without he dignity of receiving a response.

Apart from the fact that the Massey research establishes that the NZ Grapple veterans had been irradiated during the nuclear test duties, politicians, VANZ and political advisor’s, completely fail to recognise the potential gravity that DNA damage may cause, and their responsibility to have it accurately recorded. Research into genetic damage is ongoing. It has been established that damage within chromosomes, the very area that Massey University studied in the veterans, can be directly related to some serious diseases, not always cancers. There is no doubt that in the future the relation between genetic damage and health conditions will increase.

NZNTVA' genetic concerns are justified by scientific opinion, including a statement that I have on a number of occasions provided to Government and VANZ and which draws no comment..

“ The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) concluded in its 1962 Report:

It is clearly established that exposure to radiation, even in doses lower than those producing acute effects, including cancer, leukaemia and inherited abnormalities which in some cases may not be distinguishable from naturally occurring conditions or identifiable as due to radiation.. Because of the available evidence that genetic damage occurs at the lowest levels as yet experimentally tested, it is prudent to assume that some genetic damage may follow any dose of radiation, however small.”

(GA, OR, 17th session, suppl. No 16(a?5216) Ch VII. Para.48)

So what exactly is it that Government does not understand? This statement from the worlds most recognised nuclear agency advises that.

'low doses of radiation cause cancer, leukaemia and inherited abnormalities, and it should be assumed that genetic damage may follow any dose of radiation however small'…

Surely someone within Government must realise the significance of radiation induced DNA damage in the nuclear test veterans, have it politically recognised, and accurately recorded. Or is it going to continue to be ignored and the disrespect for the veterans and the attack on their dignity remain?

Roy Sefton QSM Chair New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association

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