A new online service directory for New Zealand's old soldiers and service personnel will launch today to fill a void that the Minister for Veterans admits has been "long underfunded and overlooked".
WeServed.nz pulls together nearly 30 organisations, including the Defence Force, No Duff Charitable Trust and RSA services, for any veterans or family members looking to find out where to go for help.
Developed and funded by the Auckland-based Ranfurly Veterans' Trust, it includes support for finances, jobs, family support, housing, health and wellbeing, transport and community initiatives.
Veterans Minister Ron Mark, himself a former New Zealand Army officer, will officially launch the new website at Ranfurly Village at Three Kings this afternoon.
"A single place where veterans can be linked into support has been sorely missed, and I'm really pleased the team at Ranfurly have been able to plug the gap with this website," Mark told the Herald.
"I acknowledge this is an area which has been long underfunded and overlooked by successive Governments and to have a private trust stepping up to help is a very welcome development. I can't thank them enough.
"We know that those coming out of service are faced with a very different environment to which my generation faced when we transitioned out. Therefore Government and support services need to evolve, which is something we've not been that great at doing in the past."
While a number of groups offered veterans and serving personnel a wide range of services in tough times, there's never been a central place to find out about them.
Ranfurly Veterans' Trust chairman David McGregor, who has also served on the War Pensions Appeal Board, said the online directory was designed to highlight all of the good work being done to support veterans.
"Although we have a mandated part of Defence that is dedicated to veterans' affairs, as well as myriad kindred organisations that help veterans, we've never had a hub or point of reference where people can find information that may relate to their health or wellbeing," he said.
McGregor believes the site will likely evolve over time as tweaks are made to improve the service.
He said they would consider including commercial content if there is a benefit for veterans.
"It will be interesting to see what kind of uptake there is and what else we have to do," McGregor said.
He welcomed the collaborative work done to get the directory up and running, and hoped that local RSA clubs will follow their national office in seeing its benefits and getting on board.
* You can reach the new service here: WeServed.nz