Māori veteran's pension cut off

6:04 pm on 26 January 2016

Eighty-eight-year-old Māori war veteran Selwyn Clarke has been begging for money at Kaitaia markets after his pension was cut just before Christmas.

Māori Battalion veteran Selwyn Clarke being taken away by police at Kaitaia Airport.

Māori Battalion veteran Selwyn Clarke being taken away by police at Kaitaia Airport. Photo: Facebook / Te Kaea

Mr Clarke's Veteran's Pension and disability allowance were suspended on 23 November after he was issued with a warrant to arrest.

The veteran was part of an occupation of Kaitaia Airport in September last year.

He was evicted and arrested for trespassing.

A Ministry of Social Development spokesperson said anyone receiving a Work and Income payment who was the subject of a warrant to arrest for a criminal offence needed to clear it as soon as possible.

"A beneficiary with an arrest warrant for criminal matters that hasn't been cleared 28 days after its issue will get a letter giving 10 working days to clear it. If the warrant is not cleared within 10 working days their payments will be affected."

Mr Clarke appeared on Māori Television's news show Te Kāea and said in Māori "I thought I would receive the pension for the rest of my life, but now it's been cut and I'm here seeking financial support to live off.

"The people who were arrested that day are the people who have rights to that land. The land does not belong to Ngāi Takoto, neither does it belong to the government."

Anahera Herbert-Graves of Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu said: "It's indicative of the vindictiveness of this current government towards anybody who doesn't fall into line with their [treaty] settlement process.

"The explanation is he hasn't presented himself at court - well it's a court he doesn't recognise and has consistently not recognised," she said.

"The fact that they think it's appropriate to cut off the benefit or the pension of a war veteran, who was serving his country, whānau, hapu and iwi - I think it's disgusting."

A Ministry of Social Development spokesperson said Mr Clarke came into the Kaitaia office of Work and Income on 31 December to ask why his payments had been stopped.

"He was advised that he needed to go to the District Court to clear the warrant, which he does not appear to have done."

The spokesperson said Mr Clarke was in full control of his situation and knew what he needed to do to restart the payments.

"When he clears his warrant, we are happy to help and will resume payments."

The Work and Income website states that if a payment stops, it will only be restarted from the date the warrant is cleared.

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