29 Nov 2022

Erebus memorial protesters 'mean-spirited' - Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei

From Checkpoint, 5:47 pm on 29 November 2022

"Mean spirited" is how one iwi is describing opposition to an Erebus memorial planned for Auckland's Parnell Rose Garden. 

Yesterday marked 43 years since the Air New Zealand scenic flight over Antarctica crashed into the side of Mount Erebus killing all 257 people onboard; New Zealand's largest peace time loss of life. 

A planned national memorial at the gardens in Dove Meyer Robinson park has stalled following protests, concerns over a large neighbouring pōhutukawa and claims the tone of the gardens will change. 

That is despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern renewing her commitment to delivering a national memorial for the Erebus families.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust deputy chair Ngarimu Blair told Checkpoint the hapū has been engaged in lengthy discussions with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage over the years because the memorial would be within their rohe.

"We looked through the designs over time, discussed the impacts on archaeology, vegetation, the pōhutukawa, our cultural and spiritual values, noting also that this site has also been heavily modified by the Port of Auckland and New Zealand rail and housing and parks development over time, we thought that there was no cultural reason why we should oppose or object to such a memorial commemorating such a great tragedy."

Some of those opposed claimed the memorial would go against a rāhui in the area, but Blair said there was no such rāhui.

"That has to be put down with subtribal support, by those [council of elders] leaders, and by the cultural experts. That has not happened so as far as we're concerned.

"Like most communities, and most tribes or subtribes, not everyone agrees with the leadership. So we had a couple of people who seemed to be upset about the memorial.

"But our council of elders, our trust board, who lead our commnunity, see no reason why this reason memorial could not go ahead there."

He said they were sorry for what the bereaved families were having to go through for this memorial.

"We're at a loss as to why people would try to stop this memorial. 

"I mean we have artworks and memorials across many parks commemorating much less significant and actually some ruthless people, like Governor Grey; we have Greek gods in the domain and the like.

"So this is a memorial to our greatest loss of life in our short history as New Zealanders, so we just can't quite understand it [the opposition]."

Māori community leader Dame Rangimarie Naida Glavish, from iwi Ngāti Whātua, previously told Checkpoint she was opposed because the site is culturally significant and has nothing to do with the Erebus disaster. 

Dame Naida said the hapū's approval was effectively meaningless and it was not consulted on some aspects of the project.