Western Leader : November 30th 2010
www.westernleader.co.nz Tuesday, November 30, 2010 Veterans lose at UK court Fading hope: Ex-Operation Grapple veteran Norman Pett. By VANITA PRASAD NORMAN Pett was not surprised to hear that New Zealand war veterans are not going to be com- pensated by the British government for radiation damage. The Taupaki resident and thou- sands of veterans worldwide took a case to the British High Court in an effort to gain compensation for problems they believe are linked to Operation Grapple in the Pacific during the 1950s. Judges ruled this month that cases referred for trial were lodged outside of the legal time limit and the veterans had no evidence to prove their illnesses were caused by radiation exposure. A Massey University study pro- vided for the case indicated the veterans had suffered genetic dam- age while watching nuclear testing. New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans' Association chairman Roy Sefton says the veterans are likely to appeal the decision on the class action case at the Supreme Court in London. I've read the report from the trial and the decision to deny us is an absolutely disgraceful miscarriage of justice.'' Around 551 Kiwi sailors were on board the frigates HMNZS Pukaki and HMNZS Rotoiti that were sent into the Pacific to observe the deton- ation of nine nuclear bombs during Cold War tests from 1957 to 58. It is believed that more than 100 Kiwi ex-Operation Grapple servicemen are alive today. Mr Pett, 82, attributes his pros- tate cancer and heart problems and the illnesses of his shipmates to the radiation they were exposed to at this time. The percentage of sickness in the blokes that were sent there was much higher than the ones that didn't go.'' The Massey study found the tests had caused genetic damage and high counts of rare chromosomal abnormalities in the New Zealand sailors. Mr Pett wore a boiler suit and a gas mask to protect himself from the bomb. We had an aluminium canopy on the deck and it made a thunderous sound as it warped when the shock waves of the tests hit it.'' He was assured the testing was safe. Many men were sent on deck to view the detonation but Mr Pett watched from inside the engine room of the HMNZS Pukaki. You turned your back when it detonated as protection.'' He says the servicemen had no idea about the risks involved in the tests. We didn't volunteer to go up there. We were sent there, we had no choice in the matter.'' He is doubtful the New Zealand navy veterans will ever see compen- sation from the British government. They didn't even give compen- sation to their own. I don't see them giving it to us. I'm a bit brassed off but I don't have much longer to be angry. I think they'll wait till every- one dies off before they acknowledge their wrongs.'' Car torched in driveway Devastating fire: Arantxa Fernandez' car was set fire to while it was parked in her driveway. Photo: NICOLA MURPHY By NICOLA MURPHY Arantxa Fernandez' uninsured car was parked in her driveway when it was doused in petrol and ignited this month. But she's counting herself lucky. Ms Fernandez is a midwife who carries an oxygen tank used in births in the boot of her car. The vehicle was ablaze around 2am when her son Lucas and his friends saw the flames and extinguished the fire before it reached the tank. The mother-of-four hates to think how much worse the situ- ation could have been. It's been horrific but I could have been attending funerals.'' Ms Fernandez lives down a right-of-way in Avondale with six houses surrounding her own. She says if the oxygen tank had exploded it could have damaged these properties as well as hers. Ms Fernandez had been busy preparing for her son Lucas' 21st birthday party the night before the fire and forgot to lock the car and close a window. The Fire Service believes petrol was poured into the vehicle through the window and set alight. Ms Fernandez had bought the 2003 Peugeot five days earlier and had not yet organised insurance. She was asleep when her son, daughter Naeri and a few friends saw flames over the fence while cleaning up. They called 111 and used the garden hose to fight the flames until the Fire Service arrived. Avondale station officer Grant Whitford says the fire was out but the car was still smoking when they arrived. We checked the motor but we couldn't see anything obvious that would have caused the fire which leads us to believe it is suspicious,'' he says. A plastic bottle half-filled with petrol was found nearby, confirming the firefighters' fears. Ms Fernandez lost important patient documents, medical equipment including syringes and needles and a diary in the fire. Now she is warning people about the importance of locking their cars. Mr Whitford says if the flames had reached the oxygen tank in the boot there could have been an explosion. It could have been much worse,'' he says.
December 2nd 2010