Apiata to have homecoming ceremony

By Katee Shanks

VC hero Corporal Bill Apiata will have a homecoming ceremony in Te Kaha.

It has been three years since Mr Apiata's heroic actions which earned him the highest honour possible for gallantry in battle and many more years since the soldier lived on the East Coast.

But the locals are in no doubt he is one of theirs.

In 2004 and while serving in Afghanistan, Mr Apiata carried a wounded comrade over 70m of exposed ground through enemy fire, knowing medical assistance was required to save the man's life.

He then returned to the battle.

A proud Te Kaha community is planning a presentation at one of the local marae but a date is yet to be decided.

The Daily Post understands July 28 was to be the day of the presentation but this did not fit in with other events and a mid- August date is now being discussed.

A formal ceremony to present Mr Apiata with his Victoria Cross will be held at Government House in Wellington on July 26.

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesperson said the Army would be taking a back seat in organising the day in Te Kaha, most of which would be done by the locals.

"This will be their day and we [New Zealand Army] will just be filling in the gaps where we can," the spokesman said.

It is also understood surviving members of C Company, Maori Battalion, are planning something special for Mr Apiata when he receives the prestigious award.

A Te Kaha local, who did not wish to be named, agreed there was some confusion about the date.

She said locals were keen to restrict the event to Te Kaha community members and invited guests.

Cpl Apiata becomes the first New Zealand soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross since World War II and the country's 22nd military recipient since its inception in 1856.

He is the second soldier from the East Coast whose heroic actions have been deserving of the Cross.

Second Lieutenant Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for gallantry in North Africa in 1943.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST, NZ HERALD STAFF

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the VC ceremony would be held in Te Kaha. It will be held at Government House in Wellington.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 31 Aug 2014 10:42:16 Processing Time: 897ms