38 years on, families still pushing for national memorial to Erebus disaster

It's been 38 years and there still isn't a national memorial for New Zealand's worst-ever air disaster.

The families of those who perished in the Erebus disaster are pushing for change, calling for a national memorial to be created in time for the 40th anniversary.

In 1979, 257 people died when a sightseeing Air New Zealand flight crashed into Mt Erebus, Antarctica. It remains the worst aviation disaster in the southern hemisphere.

There are several memorials across the country, but none bear the name of all of the victims.

"Here we are nearly 40 years on and our group, including the families, are saying there needs to be a memorial to Erebus," aviation historian Rev Dr Richard Waugh told Three's The Project.

The campaign to create a memorial has been revitalised ahead of the anniversary of the crash, on Tuesday.

It's been nearly 40 years since the disaster.
It's been nearly 40 years since the disaster. Photo credit: File

David Allan, who lost his mother, father and sister in the crash, is part of the Erebus National Memorial volunteer group.

"There's a satisfaction in being able to have a moment to reflect in front of something like that," he said.

"We can always learn from these things and I think that's possibly the most important thing, aside from the human comfort."

Many of those waiting for a national memorial are in their 70s and 80s and Dr Waugh said time is running out.

"They are impatient for an official national memorial to the air accident," he said.

A carved koru sits as a memorial to those who died.
A carved koru sits as a memorial to those who died. Photo credit: Getty / File

"It is now appropriate for the new Government to help the Erebus families in their ongoing grief, and to create an elegant and attractive place where all 257 names can be honoured, and where New Zealand as a nation can remember our worst civil disaster."

The decision to create a memorial falls to Jacinda Ardern as the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Last year, Prime Minister John Key said the Ministry was looking into the idea.

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

At present, there is an aluminium cross erected at the mountain above Scott Base which memorialises the victims, as well as a sculpted koru containing letters from those whose loved ones died, and a tribute at Auckland's Waikumete Cemetery for the unidentified victims.