Community steps up to find the best home for the National Erebus Memorial

On 28 November 1979, 257 lives were lost when flight 901 crashed on Mt Erebus, Antarctica.

The ensuing failures of the government of the day and Air New Zealand compounded the suffering of affected families including those involved in the Ice Phase (recovery).

Forty years on, 28 November 2019, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, apologised “for the actions of the airline then in full state ownership”. A pledge was given to build a National Erebus Memorial. But the question remains, where?

The Erebus Memorial Park Working Group has been formed to help find the most meaningful home for the memorial in a dedicated park in the Western Springs precinct. Says spokesperson, Martin Leach, “This is not rocket science!” The Ponsonby News editor and community advocate who has a passion for the airline business having worked for airlines in London and Sydney adds, “I believe the local community will welcome the memorial. It’s an important part of our national heritage and a natural fit adjacent to the aviation wing of the Museum for Transport and Technology. It’s also opposite the Meola Reef Reserve which is soon to become one of the many celebrated Auckland destinations. People visiting from out of town would be able to make a full day of it.”

The Working Group is hosting an open day on Sunday 25 July at the site at 200 Meola Road to share the plans and incorporate feedback from the community. “We hope that Erebus family members will come, and join the wider community. This involves us all. It begins with Karakia at 10am and will wrap up by 4pm.”

The proposed plan incorporates the existing design, Te Paerangi Ataatua – Sky Song. This is the design that the Ministry for Culture and Heritage commissioned for another site across the city at the historic Dove Myer Robinson Park on the Mataharehare / Taurarua Pā site in Parnell. However, this has led to a five-month sit-in and rejection by large sections of the community.

“It’s time for the community to step up, and that’s what we are doing. A dedicated Erebus Memorial Park at this ancient water-source of the city is the perfect healing place for the memorial," adds Martin Leach.

Another member of the working group, Rosemary Wheeler, comments that the Erebus disaster is part of the national curriculum. With 1.2 million visitors per year, the Museum at Western Springs presents a unique and powerful opportunity for the full Erebus story to be told. “This includes the personal family stories that will otherwise be forgotten and it’s those stories that will see the memorial live on inter-generationally”

Local resident Soala Wilson remembers the day after the Erebus crash like it was yesterday; working as a trainee hairdresser in Remuera, she remembers the salon filled with tearful clients. Supporting the creation of a new, dedicated park at Western Springs means a lot. We hope that the powers that be will listen to the logic.

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