Labour is calling on the Government to buy the war medals of Kiwi "Dambusters" veteran Les Munro to keep them in New Zealand.

Mr Munro, 95, is the last survivor of the pilots who took off for the attack on German dams, later immortalised in the film The Dam Busters.

One of only two New Zealanders to take part in the World War II raid - the other being the late Leonard Chambers - Mr Munro has put his medals up for auction in the UK to raise money for the upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial in London that commemorates his comrades who were killed.

But the Ministry for Culture and Heritage is currently seeking expert advice on whether the medals are covered by the Protected Objects Act 1975, which would mean they required approval for export if sold to a non-New Zealand buyer.


Now, Labour's Defence spokesman Phil Goff has joined the calls of RSA national president BJ Clark and others to try and buy the medals from Mr Munro, but still let him achieve his dream of raising around $100,000 - which London auction house Dix Noonan Webb said they could fetch when they go under the hammer on March 25 - and donate it to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, guardian of the memorial at Green Park in London that commemorates all the 55,573 dead of Bomber Command, including 1679 New Zealanders.

"Les Munro's decision to give up his prized medals and logbooks to support the Memorial that honours the Bomber Command mates he lost in the war is an act of extraordinary generosity," said Mr Goff today.

"As the last surviving pilot from the famed 1943 Dambusters Raid and the survivor of 57 bombing sorties, Les Munro is one of New Zealand's most distinguished war veterans.

"It would be a tragedy, however, if his medals were lost to New Zealand because they were purchased by an overseas buyer.

"The Government should take the initiative and purchase the medals and logbooks so they can be put on permanent public display in our country."

The move would be a fitting tribute to both Mr Munro personally but also to the 1851 New Zealand pilots and air crew who died during WWII while serving with Bomber Command, said Mr Goff.

"This year we mark the centenary of the occasion which gave rise to ANZAC Day, the day we commemorate all those who served and those who died for our country. Purchasing the medals would be an appropriate commemorative action," he said.

"The expenditure of around $100,000 is a small price to pay for retaining the medals as a lasting memorial to those who died over Europe to protect the freedom of future generations of New Zealanders."


David Butts, the ministry's manager of heritage operations, said officials spoke with Mr Munro yesterday.

"We have talked to Mr Munro about the steps we are taking and will be keeping him fully informed," he said.

"Protected New Zealand objects are a valuable and significant part of our culture and heritage and it's our role to ensure this is considered before they go overseas."

Mr Butts said the situation will be clarified "well before" the auction.

A spokesman for Sir Peter Jackson, who has been working on a remake of The Dam Busters since 2008, refused to comment on the sale, or whether the famous New Zealand film director would himself bid for the medals and bring them back here.