New Zealand Navy veterans sent to Mururoa Atoll to protest against French nuclear testing are calling for the Government to follow the French Government in compensating victims of the tests.

Mururoa Veterans Society estimated that 90 per cent of the combined crews of 500 from protest frigates Otago and Canterbury have complained of health consequences as a result of exposure to the tests. Many of them, they say, have died from radiation-related illnesses.

The frigates were sent to Mururoa in 1973 under Norman Kirk's Labour Government to encourage international condemnation of the French Defence Force's nuclear activities. Personnel witnessed the nuclear blasts from the edge of the 12-mile territorial limit around Mururoa Atoll.

The French Government announced last week that it was drafting legislation for a payout scheme for the first time to victims of nuclear tests in the South Pacific and Algeria. They have set aside $13.5 million in the first year as compensation, which will be distributed on a case-by-case basis.

President of the Veterans Society Peter Mitchell said he would be writing to the Prime Minister and Minister of Veteran Affairs Judith Collins to demand they follow the French Government's lead.

"France's admission that there were after-effects for its military personnel and civilians in the French territories in the South Pacific makes it hard for the New Zealand Government to deny there were consequences for our sailors."