Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Weather wipes out Erebus memorial plans

Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage has announced it will seek a new site for the National Erebus Memorial after recent extreme weather events caused significant damage to the proposed site in Parnell.

“This morning I met with families who lost their loved ones in the Erebus disaster, and members of the Operation Overdue recovery team, to inform them of my decision to seek a new site for the National Erebus Memorial,” said Secretary and Chief Executive for Culture and Heritage, Laulu Mac Leauanae (pictured).

“This has been a difficult decision to make because I know how upsetting it is for families. They remain at the absolute heart of this kaupapa.”

Mr Leauanae said that when Taurarua / Dove-Myer Robinson Park in Parnell was selected as the site for a dedicated National Erebus Memorial in 2018, it was a safe and fitting site to commemorate the 257 people who tragically lost their lives on the slopes of Mt Erebus, Antarctica on 28 November 1979.

“Following the unprecedented and extreme weather in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland earlier this year, and the significant damage to the coastline near the site for the memorial, Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage commissioned updated geotechnical engineering advice to ensure the design of the memorial is appropriate both now, and in the future,” he said.

However, updated geotechnical advice shows that building the memorial at the Taurarua / Dove-Myer Robinson Park is no longer suitable or safe for the long term, said Mr Leauanae.

“Based on careful consideration of the advice, and after discussions with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, Auckland Council and our other project partners, I have decided a new, enduring site for the memorial needs to be found.”

“This morning I spoke with Erebus whānau, who have been incredibly supportive and gracious throughout this long journey. It is upsetting that we were not able to share better news with them today. I know the families have waited for years to see a National Erebus Memorial realised.

“While this setback is undoubtably difficult to hear, we remain committed to realising the memorial and will be taking time to carefully consider what the next steps will be.”

He said Manatū Taonga would continue to work closely with Erebus families, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, Auckland Council and other stakeholders to secure a new, permanent home for the National Erebus Memorial.

“Erebus remains the worst civil accident in our history, and the sheer scale of the loss shocked the nation. The tragedy and its aftermath have left a lasting legacy on our national identity and deserves, along with the 257 treasured people who lost their lives that day, to be appropriately commemorated.”

“I am speaking directly to the Erebus families when I say that despite this setback, me and my team at Manatū Taonga are absolutely and resolutely committed to securing a home for the National Erebus Memorial that endures for present and future generations of New Zealanders,” said Mr Leauanae.

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