2 Mar 2021

Dame Naida Glavish protests 'monstrosity' Erebus memorial

From Checkpoint, 5:23 pm on 2 March 2021

High profile Māori leader Dame Rangimarie Naida Glavish is considering occupying an Auckland park to stop construction of a controversial Erebus memorial.

Two hundred and fifty seven people died when an Air New Zealand plane crashed into Mount Erebus in Antarctica in November 1979.

After much heated debate, the memorial build is due to start this week at Parnell's Dove-Myer Robinson Park.

But Dame Naida, of Ngāti Whātua, believes the spot chosen near the old Mataharehare Pā site and a sprawling pōhutukawa tree is not appropriate for what she describes as a "steel and concrete monstrosity".

"What did it have to do with Erebus? Absolutely nothing, other than a family member … lives in Parnell. 

"There are families that have made contact with me, who did not agree that it go there. Why is it going there?

"I'm not saying that they shouldn't have a memorial. I'm just saying it should not be at Mataharehare.

"They're saying to me they'd only have to cut off a couple of the branches of the pōhutukawa, and in parts of the roots… It's a living tree. You stick a nail in your big toe and see if that's going to affect the rest of your body.

"It is a living tree, and it is a living tree that's been living there for over 180-plus years. And we want to disturb its roots in the whenua, sacred whenua at that, so we can put up concrete and steel."

In November 2020, after a heated meeting, Waitematā Local Board members voted four to three in favour of the planned memorial in the Parnell park. 

Dame Naida said she was not aware of the consultation and submissions period at the time. 

"The first offence that happened there was Mataharehare had its name changed to Sir Dove-Myer Robinson Park. Where was the consultation on that? 

"And now it's being again desecrated with a memorial of Erebus which it had nothing to do with."

In a letter to government ministers, Dame Naida said: 

"I question the integrity of the process due to poor consultation, misinformation and a lack of transparency. I believe this shows the hallmarks of a pre-determined outcome. 

"Therefore, I request that site construction stop effective immediately to afford a principled and transparent process to take place to achieve an outcome that upholds the mana of the Crown, the Treaty partner, all Tāmaki and the families affected by Erebus."

Dame Naida said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called her in response, apologising that she was not involved in the consultation process, and Ardern would try to get people to contact her. 

"I will not lay down and think it will go away, because there was a decision made by a small group of people."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage told Checkpoint Ardern had a "positive conversation with Dame Naida" on Monday night. 

The ministry said it followed up with Dame Naida on Tuesday to offer further information on the extensive iwi engagement over the past three years, and to organise a meeting with the independent arborist about the work required on the pōhutukawa tree.