Remembrance Army launches bid for more protection of abandoned veteran graves

Current and former New Zealand soldiers are launching a bid for more protection of the abandoned graves of Kiwi veterans.

The Remembrance Army has cleaned and restored an estimated 40,000 war graves but wants better access to maintain the thousands of others in disrepair. 

It's made up of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds who give up their time every weekend to serve.

Cemeteries filled with broken and dirty graves are where the Remembrance Army deploys.

They scoop up debris and wipe what they can, restoring graves covered in dirt, leaves and cracks. 

Remembrance Army CEO Simon Strombom says many graves are well overdue for a cleanup. 

"A lot of them in the 1920s or 1930s have no paint on them so they've never been touched in 100 years."

Despite the work they do, getting into public cemeteries can be a challenge for the Remembrance Army.

Some councils require permission from families of the dead before grave sites can be restored or cleaned.

That permission is often hard to get - so they want a War Graves Commission established to make the estimated 200,000 graves more accessible. 

Strombom says a commission would override council permissions. 

"It has jurisdiction over all graves not covered by Vet Affairs [Veteran Affairs] or Commonwealth War graves. It overrides the consent process for 60 councils in New Zealand."

The Remembrance Army will meet with Veteran Affairs Minister Meka Whaitiri next week to discuss the Commission as they aim to restore the graves and memory of our fallen soldiers.