Defence Minister Wayne Mapp has apologised to war veterans who had to dip into their own pockets to travel to the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Crete in May, while he flew on the taxpayer.

The vets had to sort out their own accommodation and received $2000 from the Government, less than the cost of airfares, while taxpayers funded $26,000 on flights and accommodation for Dr Mapp and a private secretary.

In contrast, Australian veterans were flown to Greece and put up as guests of honour by their Government.

Dr Mapp yesterday was asked if he should apologise but did not.

Challenged in Parliament today he rectified that.

"I am, and was, concerned that we need to properly respect our veterans. It is clear that the $2000 was not sufficient and we need to do better for the future 70th commemorations (of other battles during WW2)," he said.

"I do apologise to Crete veterans that I did not achieve the level of support that the public and they would reasonably expect."

Cabinet would discuss compensation.

"This is an issue I am discussing with my Cabinet colleagues, there is some challenge around retrospectivity."

The Veterans Affairs budget had been fully used and the limited support the Government was able to offer veterans had come from the prime minister's budget.

The Government has committed to making more funding made available in future to cover the cost of travel for veterans and a support person.

Initially the men were to travel on a Defence Force plane but the earthquake in Christchurch meant the plane was needed there, Dr Mapp said.

Labour's Rick Barker told the House that the meal served at Parliament for veterans who did not go to Crete consisted of soup, sausage rolls, and a lamington.

"Why does he believe half a sausage roll is appropriate?"

Dr Mapp said Veterans' Affairs Minister Judith Collins hosted the event and she held a "deep respect" for the veterans.

Ms Collins today said she would prepare a Cabinet paper on how the Government should honour veterans at further WW2 70th anniversary commemorations.

"It is very important that we honour those veterans who served during WW2, and give them whatever help we can to attend significant commemorations overseas.

"The Cabinet paper will look at how we can help veterans get to the rest of the 70th anniversary commemorations with the support they need, be that a family member or helper.

"Given that many WW2 veterans are in their 90s and not able to undertake extensive overseas travel, the paper will also explore what can be done here in New Zealand to commemorate significant WW2 battles."

She would consult the Ministers of Defence, Culture and Heritage, and Foreign Affairs, along with groups representing veterans in the preparation of the paper. The paper would be presented to Cabinet in September.

- NZPA