1 Sep 2011

Defence says war memorabilia safe at museum

3:58 pm on 1 September 2011

The Defence Force is defending its ability to protect New Zealand's war memorabilia at the National Army Museum in Waiouru.

Keith Davies, 57, a former staff member at the museum, appeared in the Wellington District Court on Wednesday accused of stealing 843 medals worth an estimated $256,000 between 1995 and 2002. Only 300 have so far been recovered.

In an unrelated theft, 96 medals including nine Victoria Crosses, were stolen in 2007. All were eventually returned.

War historian Ian McGibbon, who works for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, says the theft is an indictment of how poorly the medals were handled at the museum and is calling for them to be moved to a more secure location.

The deputy chief of the army, Brigadier Charles Lott, says security has been stepped up since the thefts. He says all systems and procedures have been overhauled and the collection is safe.

The Defence Force says it relied on integrity and honesty of its staff to keep the medals safe.

However, Dr McGibbon says he does not think Waiouru is the right place to keep New Zealand's war memorabilia and believes there are better places, with higher security, where the medals could be kept.

Dr McGibbon says relying on the honesty and vigilance of staff members is not an adequate security measure.

RSA happy with Waiouru security

Returned and Services Association president Don McIver says he is confident the National Army Museum in Waiouru can protect New Zealand's war memorabilia and does not believe the theft is indicative of the quality of security there.

Mr McIver says the museum has spent millions of dollars improving security, following the 2007 theft.