Erebus memorial protest goes ahead despite Auckland's turbulent weather

Demonstrators are occupying the pā site in the inner-city suburb of Parnell.
Demonstrators are occupying the pā site in the inner-city suburb of Parnell. Photo credit: Supplied

A person who is part of a "peaceful occupation" camping at the pā site of Mataharehare in Auckland says they will go on despite the city's turbulent weather.

Demonstrators are occupying the pā site in the inner-city suburb of Parnell to show their opposition to a controversial Erebus crash memorial at Sir Dove-Myer Robinson Park. 

But on Thursday afternoon, parts of Auckland were hit by thunderstorms and heavy rain.

Gerry Hetet - of Ngāti Maniapoto - who is part of the occupation, told Newshub they will be there through the turbulent weather and will only leave when they have "meaningful dialogue with the Ministry [for Culture and Heritage]".

He was clear it wasn't a protest, but a "peaceful occupation" on the site.

In November 2020, after a heated meeting, Waitematā Local Board members voted four to three in favour of the planned memorial, but some locals have been in staunch opposition to it.

The current demonstration is being led by Māori community leader Dame Rangimarie Naida Glavish, who says the site is culturally significant and has nothing to do with the Erebus disaster. 

Hetet said they were "forced" by the Ministry to "exercise our democratic right to occupy this site to protect it from the earthworks which were scheduled to start this week".

"This whenua is sacred, the ancient pohutukawa should be allowed to continue to sprawl their ancient branches with impediment from humans."

He questioned how Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern could declare a climate emergency but then be "responsible for pouring tons of concrete and stainless steel in what is currently an open green space".

Hetet is calling on the Wāitemata local board members to rescind their approval for the memorial.

However, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have remained in support of the memorial.

"Since 2018 Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have been engaged in relation to the progress of the Erebus Memorial project," the iwi said in a statement to RNZ on Wednesday.

"We remain completely in support of this very worthy and long-overdue memorial. What is sadly lost in all of this, are the families of those tragically lost in the Erebus disaster. 

"It has been clear to us that there is a campaign being run by a small number to stop the memorial. We have tried to avoid engaging in activities that are part of what seems to be a public relations campaign to stop the project. This statement is to clarify our position, to show our continued support, and will be our final public statement on the opposition to this kaupapa."