ACT spokesman for Defence Mark Cameron has written to the Minister of Defence requesting that she consider a review of the New Zealand Bravery Medal awarded posthumously to Private David Whawhai Stewart following his heroic actions during the extreme weather event on Mount Ruapehu which claimed the lives of six New Zealand Defence Force personnel in 1990.

"It is well documented that Private Stewart took actions that night to save the lives of other servicemen while he was aware that it would put him at higher risk of casualty. He selflessly exposed himself to the elements to help others and shared what little protective supplies he had with them, leading to his own death," says Mr Cameron.

"In 1999 Private Stewart was awarded the New Zealand Bravery Medal, the lowest rank of bravery awards in New Zealand, “for acts of bravery”. In our view, and that of many others, Private Stewart’s actions on that night warrant an upgrade to his award, such as the New Zealand Cross 'for acts of great bravery in situations of extreme danger'.

"The previous Minister of Defence Hon Andrew Little declined to review the award as he was of the view that decisions about these awards should be made at the time when all relevant information was available. However the New Zealand Bravery Medal was awarded to Private Stewart in 1999, nine years after the tragedy, which shows a precedent for awarding medals in the years following events. There was also a military Court of Inquiry into the incident which documents exactly what occurred, providing clear evidence from which to make the decision.

"There have been concerns expressed that reviewing the award will draw attention to an avoidable national tragedy and therefore cause embarrassment to the New Zealand Defence Force. I am of the view that such potential embarrassment is not a sufficient reason to withhold recognition for a New Zealander who demonstrated great bravery in the face of terrible conditions.

"Considering an upgrade to the bravery award issued to Private Stewart is the minimum this government could do to uphold the mana of Stewart, his fellow servicemen who were on Mount Ruapehu, and the brave personnel of the New Zealand Defence Force in general.

"I look forward to the Minister's response."

The letter to Hon Judith Collins can be read here.

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