Location of controversial Erebus memorial to be moved after wild weather damages park

A new location is being considered for the National Erebus Memorial after extreme weather caused significant damage to Taurarua/Dove-Myer Robinson Park in Parnell. 

Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage announced on Friday they are looking for a new location for the memorial. 

Secretary and Chief Executive for Culture and Heritage Leauanae Laulu Mac Leauanae acknowledged the distress the decision may have caused for the families. 

"This has been a difficult decision to make because I know how upsetting it is for families. They remain at the absolute heart of this kaupapa."

Leauanae said Taurarua/Dove-Myer Robinson Park in Parnell was first selected as the site in 2018, as it was "a safe and fitting site to commemorate the 257 people who tragically lost their lives" in the disaster. 

But the recent flooding in Auckland and Cyclone Gabrielle has caused significant damage to the coastline near the site. 

Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage commissioned updated geotechnical engineering reports which found building the memorial at the park is no longer suitable or safe for the long term. 

"Based on careful consideration of the advice, and after discussions with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, Auckland Council and our other project partners, I have decided a new, enduring site for the memorial needs to be found," Leauanae said. 

"This morning I spoke with Erebus whānau, who have been incredibly supportive and gracious throughout this long journey. It is upsetting that we were not able to share better news with them today. I know the families have waited for years to see a National Erebus Memorial realised.

"While this setback is undoubtedly difficult to hear, we remain committed to realising the memorial and will be taking time to carefully consider what the next steps will be."

Leauanae said Manatū Taonga will continue to work closely with Erebus families, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, Auckland Council and our other partners to secure a new, permanent home for the memorial.

"Erebus remains the worst civil accident in our history, and the sheer scale of the loss shocked the nation. The tragedy and its aftermath have left a lasting legacy on our national identity and deserves, along with the 257 treasured people who lost their lives that day, to be appropriately commemorated.

"I am speaking directly to the Erebus families when I say that despite this setback, me and my team at Manatū Taonga are absolutely and resolutely committed to securing a home for the National Erebus Memorial that endures for present and future generations of New Zealanders." 

More than 250 passengers and crew members were killed when an Air New Zealand flight crashed into Mt Erebus, Antarctica 43 years ago, in New Zealand's worst aviation disaster.

Since then the families of victims have been lobbying for a permanent memorial to be set up, with plans to add one in Parnell's Dove Myer Robinson Park green-lighted in 2020. 

But the project faced opposition from some locals who criticised the placement, style and process that decided where the national monument would go, which delayed it getting the go-ahead.