War hero Willie Apiata, New Zealand’s only living recipient of the Victoria Cross, is to leave the military.
Prime Minister John Key revealed Apiata was leaving the Special Air Service to work for the youth charity High Wire Trust, although he will remain with the NZSAS Reserve Forces.
In a statement, Apiata confirmed his departure, saying he was leaving “to pursue my goals and to grow with my family”.
“This has been a decision that I have not taken lightly and it is one that has taken me many months to make.”
Apiata said he was “very proud” of his service with the New Zealand Defence Force and was “very grateful” for all the support he has received by the service and the SAS.
He won his Victoria Cross for saving a wounded comrade under fire in Afghanistan in 2004.
He is the first and only recipient of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand, which was introduced to replace the British Victoria Cross in 1999.
Mr Key told reporters it was “a shame” to lose Corporal Apiata but his new role was a natural progression for him.
“It’s a great loss I think to the SAS, but these guys are in a very high pressure environment. He’s given a big part of his career to the army and obviously to the SAS, so we wish him all the very best.”
He had been a soldier for 23 years.