Disappointment for families of Erebus victims as Government delays national memorial

The Mt Erebus crash memorial won't be finished in time for the 40th anniversary.
The Mt Erebus crash memorial won't be finished in time for the 40th anniversary. Photo credit: Newshub

The Government has delayed a national memorial for the families of Erebus victims. 

It was hoped the memorial could be finished by November 2019, in time for the 40th anniversary of the horror 1979 Air New Zealand plane crash on the slopes of Antarctica's Mt Erebus. But the memorial won't be finished for another two years. 

The families were told by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage that the Erebus National Memorial will not be ready for the anniversary of the accident because of the scale and complexity of it. The ministry says the memorial could be finished by 2020. 

"While it seems that the Erebus National Memorial will not be ready for the 40th anniversary, we are proposing that something meaningful and special is still planned for 28th November 2019," said spokesperson Rev Dr Richard Waugh. 

But Sarah Myles, the granddaughter of a passenger, says it feels like a step backwards. She told Newshub the main point of the memorial was for families "to finally be able to come together as one at the 40th anniversary as many families have not made it to this point". 

The national memorial was first proposed in early 2016, which should have given the ministry plenty of time to complete it for the anniversary in 2019.  

It hasn't been said where the memorial is planned to be built, but two relatives of the victims told NZME that Auckland would a suitable location. 

The accident was the deadliest in the history of Air New Zealand. The flight left Auckland Airport in the morning of November 28, 1979, to spend a few hours flying over the Antarctic continent, but crashed into Mt Erebus killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board. 

An initial investigation into the crash concluded the pilot was to blame, but public outcry led to a Royal Commission of Inquiry, which found that the accident was caused by a correction made to the coordinates of the flight path the night of the crash. 

The head of the inquiry, Justice Peter Mahon, accused Air NZ of presenting "an orchestrated litany of lies" and this led to changes in senior management at the airline.

It has been said that next year's anniversary will be the last major anniversary that many ageing Erebus victim relatives will be able to attend, hence its importance. 

Newshub. 

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz