Key Points:

Two men are standing outside the Valour Alcove at the Waiouru Army Museum when one dares the other to test the facility's new security system.

"There's Willie [Apiata] - let's see if you're quick enough to sneak a medal past him without him breaking your neck," says one.

The other replies: "You first."

The two men and New Zealand's most recent Victoria Cross winner, Willie Apiata, were among dozens who attended yesterday's medal return ceremony at the Waiouru Army Museum.

All 96 medals were returned in an at times emotional ceremony after thieves made a daring break-in last December and swiped 12 sets of some of the country's most precious military history.

Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae said the burglary was "a total affront to the nation and our heritage".

Also among the contingent of family members, Army and police staff was Nelson businessman and former US marine Vietnam veteran, Tom Sturgess, who donated $100,000 to assist with the medals' return.

He was presented with a police commissioner's commendation recognising his contribution but said his donation wasn't meant as a kind gesture. "I wanted the medals back and figured the reward was a way to do it - the whole thing was a means to an end," he said.

Another on the receiving end yesterday was Operation Valour inquiry head Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Bensemann, who received a Chief of Defence Force Commendation.

He said it was unlikely there would be any further arrests but was hopeful the two men appearing in Auckland District Court today would stand trial next year.

Museum director Ray Seymour would not discuss in detail what measures the facility had undertaken to amp up its security.

But there are obvious changes including shatterproof glass encasing the boxes which hold the medals, a security shutter system to enclose the Valour Alcove, several security cameras, a guard and an alarm system which someone must have accidentally tripped while speeches were being made.

Lieutenant General Mateparae said there was no suggestion military police could have been held accountable after the medals went missing. But he said there had been a lot of soul searching.

He said a security firm hired by the Army Museum arrived at the scene within a few minutes of the break-in.

"We thought that the alcove was at a standard higher than what it was ... but the security system failed on the night - was that acceptable? Of course not."