'Some merit' in national Erebus memorial - John Key

'Some merit' in national Erebus memorial - John Key

The Prime Minister says the Government is considering creating a new memorial to honour the 257 victims of the Erebus disaster.

While there are a number of memorials in an assortment of places across the country, none bear the name of every victim.

Volunteer group Erebus National Memorial doesn't think that's good enough and want a new memorial to honour all of the victims - an idea Prime Minister John Key says is possible.

"I think it's an idea with some merit. The Ministry of Culture and Heritage are looking at it with Air New Zealand and some others," he told Paul Henry on Monday.

"It's an incredibly significant disaster in New Zealand, if not the largest in terms of claiming lives, and there's not a New Zealand memorial for it."

An Air New Zealand sightseeing flight crashed into Mount Erebus in Antarctica 37 years ago today, the worst aviation disaster in New Zealand's history.

In Antarctica, a wooden cross was erected at the mountain above New Zealand's Scott Base to commemorate the crash. When it eroded in the extreme weather conditions, it was replaced with an aluminium one.

Mr Key says while he's been to see the Antarctic memorial, there is still an argument for a national one.

"You've got to give some really good credit to Rob Fyfe, who when he was chief executive of Air New Zealand, really went out there and tried to do a lot of things to help healing for the families, including the things down on the ice and different services he held.

"But I think there is an argument that you could have a national memorial here."

It's a critical endorsement for the Erebus National Memorial group, and spokesperson Reverend Dr Richard Waugh says recent tragedies have showed New Zealand is a more compassionate place than it used to be.

"I think the Christchurch earthquake memorial and the Pike River situation is helping us understand that something is needed," he told Paul Henry.

"It's an omission that nothing has been done at this time where all 257 names are together, where family can gather, where people can be there together for contemplation, for prayer, for reflection."

The victims' families the group has been able to reach have been very supportive, Dr Waugh says.

"Those Erebus families need to be appropriately acknowledged and cared for," he said.

"The feedback we've had from the families, especially surviving spouses and siblings, is very supportive. They're really saying we'd like something to be done, particularly the older folks, before they depart."

Dr Waugh says there's still a fair amount of planning that needs to happen including discussing funding, the involvement of local government and the location of the memorial, but he's hopeful it could open in three years - for the disaster's 40th anniversary.

"To have the Government's understanding and support is going to be critical," he said.

"We don't [need the Government's approval] but I think it's very fitting that the Government leads there, rather than the airline."

Other memorials include a sculpted koru containing letters from the loved ones of those who died, also in Antarctica, and a tribute at Auckland's Waikumete Cemetery for those whose bodies were not positively identified and those whose bodies were not recovered.