Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Poppy Day cash helps ex-veterans

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Collections from the Bay's annual Poppy Day appeal funds essential services for the local ex-veteran community, the Returned and Services Association says.

John Purcell, RSA district president for the Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and East Coast, said appeal proceeds provided reading glasses, hearing aids and sometimes financial assistance for war veterans.

About 6700 local residents were members of the Napier and Taradale RSA clubs, Mr Purcell said.

In Napier alone, which had nearly 4000 members, between 600 and 700 people had joined in the last two years.

The increasing support was encouraging, especially for Hawke's Bay's ageing World War II veterans, he said.

"There's not many now. The servicemen of the Second World War are fading into history."

Nationally, an estimated 10,000-12,000 Kiwi World War II veterans are still alive and many will turn out for the annual Anzac Day dawn services next week.

RSA national chief executive Stephen Clarke said Poppy Day appeal donations provided extra support for veterans and their families.

Government figures show about 9000 Kiwis were receiving the Veteran's Pension at the end of February.

About 600 were from Hawke's Bay.

In the year to June, Veteran's Pension payouts amounted to $176.5 million, down from $178 million the previous year.

Dr Clarke said $1.8 million was raised in last year's Poppy appeal - about $26,000 in Napier and Taradale alone - to support ageing Kiwi servicemen and women. "That was our second largest collection on record."

Support service costs for the ex-veteran community were estimated at $2 million annually, he said.

"It's anything that makes their lives easier."

This year, the RSA have teamed up with gambling giant Sky City in a controversial new sponsorship deal.

Dr Clarke was not expecting any backlash from the deal, which will see Warriors and Breakers players collecting for Poppy Day today in Auckland.

"It's another corporate organisation supporting one of the oldest appeals in the country."

Abuse of volunteers and war veterans in Queenstown last year marred New Zealand's ANZAC Day celebrations.

Pedestrians lashed out at the Queenstown group after it was revealed manufacturing of the red flowers had shifted to China.

Dr Clarke said the behaviour "really misses" the point of the appeal, which provided much-needed help for many New Zealand war veterans.

Nationally, RSA membership has declined from a peak of 136,000 just after World War II to more than 110,000 current members, he said.

Veterans' pensions:

  • Hastings district 202

  • Napier city 309

  • Wairoa district 19

  • Central Hawke's Bay district 48

  • Hawke's Bay total 578

  • All New Zealand 9084

- Hawkes Bay Today

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