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Frequently asked questions

Background

Why is the government building a national memorial to the Erebus accident?

Erebus remains one of New Zealand’s worst accidents, 257 people lost their lives when flight TE901 crashed into Mt Erebus in Antarctica. The National Erebus Memorial will acknowledge the loss to their families and the nation.

The aircraft involved in the Erebus accident was operated by the national carrier Air New Zealand, which was in full state ownership at that time.

Where is the memorial being built?

Manatū Taonga is currently seeking a new site for the National Erebus Memorial. The preference is for the memorial to be built in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. The memorial will be an enduring place where present and future generations can visit to grieve, reflect and celebrate those who lost their lives on 28 November 1979.

Taurarua Dove-Myer Robinson Park in Auckland was originally selected as the site for the memorial, however extreme weather events in January and February 2023 mean that the site is no longer suitable.

Why will the memorial be in Auckland?

The flight at the centre of the Erebus accident left from Auckland on the morning of 28 November 1979. Those onboard came from across New Zealand and around the world, but the majority of New Zealanders were from the wider Auckland region. Many of the victims’ families live in Auckland.

Auckland is also a gateway for international visitors, providing easier access for families of the international passengers on the flight, should they wish to visit.

How is Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei involved in the National Erebus Memorial?

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has been supportive in the planning stages of a National Erebus Memorial. The hapū has provided strong ongoing support for the families and is committed to seeing them have a space to reflect and remember their loved ones. 

In November 2022, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei invited Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue onto Ōrākei Marae in Auckland for a pōwhiri on the date of the 43rd anniversary of the disaster. At the pōwhiri, the names of all 257 passengers and crew who were lost on 28 November 1979 were read out. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has said this is an enduring invitation.

Design

What is the design for the memorial?

The memorial design, named Te Pareangi Atata – Sky Song, is by Studio Pacific Architecture in collaboration with artists Jason O’Hara and Warren Maxwell.

What will happen to the design in the new site?

Te Pareangi Atata – Sky Song was designed specifically for Dove-Myer Robinson Park, but in selecting a new site we will reuse as many aspects and elements of the original design as possible.

What was the process for selecting the design Te Paerangi Ataata – Sky Song?

Manatū Taonga ran a national design competition to select the memorial concept, based on the site at Dove-Myer Robinson Park. The winning design, Te Paerangi Ataata – Sky Song was chosen from six shortlisted options by an expert panel which included an architect, a landscape architect, an artist and an urban planner, as well as two representatives from the Erebus families.

Prior to it being confirmed, the preferred design was shared with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and the Auckland Urban Design Panel, as well as the Waitematā Local Board who were satisfied that it met all the required criteria.

The winning design was announced in April 2019.

'National Erebus Memorial design selected' (Beehive)

Will the selected memorial design be fully accessible?

The National Erebus Memorial is designed to be fully accessible to all who wish to visit it.

Cost of the memorial

Who is paying for the memorial?

The costs associated with the design, construction and ongoing maintenance of the memorial sit with Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

How much will the memorial cost?

The capital budget for the National Erebus Memorial project at a new site is $3.809 million.

In addition, $238,548 of materials and specialist advice obtained during the National Erebus Memorial at Dove-Myer Robinson Park Project, is available to be repurposed for the new site. This capital budget is expected to be used on the design and construction of the National Erebus Memorial. When a memorial site is selected, the budget will be reviewed.

How much money has the Ministry spent on the development of the National Erebus Memorial to date?

There are two main types of costs associated with this project: Capital Expenditure and Operating Costs. Capital expenditure are costs incurred against the capital budget, which is provided above. Operating costs, however, are costs incurred against the Ministry’s baseline budget, and do not impact the capital budget of the National Erebus Memorial Project.

Manatū Taonga has retained $238,548 of materials and related specialist advice. These costs were originally incurred for the proposed memorial at Dove-Myer Robinson Park. Manatū Taonga will repurpose these materials and advice in the construction of the memorial at a new site, and these costs are included in the overall capital budget.

There has been no further capital expenditure on the National Erebus Memorial since Manatū Taonga announced it was seeking a new site for the memorial in April 2023.

Other operating costs incurred since 1 July 2023 related to the National Erebus Memorial project are $20,454.

You can find historical costs associated with the National Erebus Memorial at Dove-Myer Robinson Park Project (previous to 30 June 2023), in our Publications section.

Historical costs of National Erebus Memorial at Dove-Myer Robinson Park

Decision to seek a new site

What process was followed to select the Dove-Myer Robinson Park site for the National Erebus Memorial?

Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage began working with Auckland Council in mid-2018 to identify a site that would be appropriate for the National Erebus Memorial. Feedback from the Erebus families showed a clear preference for a peaceful, park-like setting.

Taurarua Dove-Myer Robinson Park in the Auckland suburb of Parnell was announced as the proposed site for the National Erebus Memorial in November 2018. Several sites were looked at before Dove-Myer Robinson Park was selected as the best fit as a central, accessible, park setting. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei gave their support for the memorial to be built on the site.

In November 2018, Waitematā Local Board gave their support in principle as the landowner, subject to a series of criteria being met, and granted final landowner approval in November 2020.

Auckland site approved for National Erebus Memorial)

Local board gives approval for national Erebus Memorial in Dove-Myer Robinson Park

Resource consent for the National Erebus Memorial at Dove-Myer Robinson Park was granted by Auckland Council in March 2020. Archaeological Authority for the memorial was granted by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga in September 2020.

Manatū Taonga also commissioned an Arboricultural Assessment by an independent and qualified arborist and reviewed by a range of similarly qualified arboricultural experts. All concluded that the memorial posed no risk to the notable pōhutukawa tree near the site.

Arboricultural assessment Peers Brown Miller Ltd (PDF, 2.2MB)

Why is the memorial no longer to be built at Dove-Myer Robinson Park?

The extreme and unprecedented storm events in the North Island in January and February 2023 led to several significant slips occurring along the cliff line at the memorial site in Dove-Myer Robinson Park.

In light of the damage, Manatū Taonga commissioned updated geotechnical advice to ensure the memorial design is appropriate both now, and in the future.

Based on the information provided in this report, the Ministry made the difficult decision that the Dove-Myer Robinson Park site is no longer suitable and that we will seek a new site for the National Erebus Memorial.

What is the current status of the National Erebus Memorial?

Manatū Taonga and the New Zealand Government are fully committed to building a National Erebus Memorial.

We are currently working to secure a new permanent home for the memorial. We are working closely with Auckland Council and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, and our other project partners.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has reaffirmed its ongoing support for the families and outlined their commitment to seeing the Memorial built in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

When is the memorial expected to be complete?

We do not have an updated timeframe for the construction of the memorial as we are currently seeking a new site for the National Erebus Memorial. An updated timeframe for the National Erebus Memorial will be provided as soon as possible.

Where will the memorial be built? Have you got an alternative site?

We are currently working through the options for the new memorial site. At this stage, the preference is for the memorial to remain in Auckland.

We’re grateful for the ongoing support of our project partners, especially Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, who have expressed their full support for the families and to see the memorial realised and to help us and the families secure a new site.

What will the process be to find a new site?

We are currently working through what the process will be to secure a new site for the National Erebus Memorial. We remain committed to all those with an interest in the Memorial, including Erebus families, the community, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and other project partners, to identify an appropriate new site.

When will updates be available on the selection of the new site?

Our priority is to keep Erebus families up to date, and we will be sharing information about the process with them first. We have committed to providing Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue with a monthly update. Any major updates will be communicated to the public once they have been confirmed.

What showed the site was suitable in the first place?

ENGEO New Zealand prepared a geotechnical investigation report in October 2019. This report concluded the site was a suitable one to construct the memorial on at that time.

What was the impact of the Ombudsman’s report on the project?

Manatū Taonga’s decision to seek another site for the National Erebus Memorial is based solely on the updated geotechnical advice we commissioned and received in 2023.

The Ombudsman recommended that the Ministry engage with opponents of the memorial before construction began at Dove-Myer Robinson Park to attempt to resolve their sense of grievance. As confirmed by the Ombudsman, we took appropriate steps to implement that recommendation and the investigation was closed early in 2023, prior to the new geotechnical report about the status of Dove-Myer Robinson Park being provided to the Ministry.

How can I keep up to date with the memorial's progress?

Regular updates on the memorial development project will be posted on the Projects update section.

If you would like to be added to the project email list, please contact us at: [email protected]

If you have any questions, you can also contact us at: [email protected]

Who should I contact if I have any questions about the construction of the memorial?

Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Please email [email protected] or phone (04) 499 4229.

I have a friend or a relative who died in the Erebus accident. How can I be involved?

Family members have been involved at various points throughout the design process for the National Erebus Memorial as have members of Operation Overdue. As the planning for the memorial progresses, Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage would like to hear from anyone with a connection to the Erebus accident. If you would like to be kept informed on the project, email: [email protected]

Project updates

2 November 2023

On 2 November 2023 Manatū Taonga met with Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue to provide them with a project update. The meeting provided information about a Mauri stone, site selection, the Erebus Story for all New Zealanders and the 44th anniversary of the Erebus disaster. 

Acknowledgement 

Pou Mataaho o Te Hua Deputy Chief Executive Delivery Glenis Philip-Barbara opened the meeting, and acknowledged the Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue for their ongoing commitment to the National Erebus Memorial project. 

Mauri stone 

A proposed mauri stone was presented. The stone was gifted by Antarctica New Zealand to be part of the National Erebus Memorial. The mauri stone embodies a connection with Mt Erebus, as it is from the mountain itself.
Site selection

We confirmed that the proposed site selection process has begun. We have appointed Barker & Associates, who are specialists in planning and urban design, to support this mahi. 

We identified over 30 sites, which were from a list of sites previously supplied by Auckland Council, suggestions from Erebus families, and through a general search of the Auckland area. The next step will be reducing the list by applying the high-level memorial site criteria. The criteria were developed by Erebus families alongside Manatū Taonga earlier in the year, and was reviewed by an independent party.

The next step is to engage with landowners, iwi and key stakeholders to determine levels of support. This is to ensure that the memorial and Erebus families will be welcomed to a chosen site. We also want to test levels of support before presenting any sites to the group. The list will be presented to Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue.

The Erebus Story for all New Zealanders

We then moved on to talking about our ongoing Erebus narrative work. We have had 25 people reach out to us offering to tell their stories. Planning for initial interviews has started.

Installation feedback 

In the previous hui we presented an idea to have an installation which will accompany the Erebus Story for all New Zealanders work. We received several responses, with the majority in favour of the installation but with a number of requests that the Memorial remains the priority. A final decision based on feedback will be made in January 2024.


5 October 2023

On 5 October Manatū Taonga met with Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue for the monthly National Erebus Memorial project meeting. In this meeting, a substantial amount of information was covered which included updates on site selection, the Erebus Story for all New Zealanders, consultation on a potential installation and Te Akomanga Erebus module. 

Site selection 

In August we supplied Auckland Council with the finalised site criteria. After discussions with Auckland Council, the decision was made that Manatū Taonga would take the lead on generating the long list of proposed sites. The Council will be consulted, as well as iwi and other landowners and stakeholders. 

Erebus Story for all New Zealanders and consultation on installation

We then moved into an update on the Erebus Story for all New Zealanders and thanked everyone again for their willingness to share their stories with us. We are focused on gathering as many stories as we can and making them available in different ways for present and future generations.

One of the ways this could be achieved is through work we have begun exploring about a concept for a physical installation. The installation would be a place to connect, feel and engage. It would be an immersive experience and a space to express and elevate the story and significance of the people and places affected by Erebus. We shared an image of a similar concept. 

We have scoped for an installation that includes a dedicated space with audio-visual storytelling and a small number of poignant artefacts.

If possible, it is intended that the installation travels around Aotearoa over a period of years. We invited feedback from Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue on the design of the installation and for feedback on the proposed installation locations.

Te Akomanga Erebus module 

We were proud to announce that Manatū Taonga Educators/Historians launched a new Erebus education package for Te Akomanga – an online space for teaching and learning the histories of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

The Erebus accident: What do we remember from the past and how? (NZ History)

While this resource is aimed at teachers for use in classrooms, this is important mahi that means children across Aotearoa will have an opportunity to think and talk about Erebus, and how we remember the past.
 


31 August 2023

Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage met with Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue on Thursday 31 August.

Site selection 

We gave an update on the process of appointing the third-party assessor contract. This third-party assessor will review the shortlist of potential sites. 

A question was raised about whether the recent coverage in the media of budget cuts could impact the building of National Erebus Memorial. We confirmed that the Ministry has a specific appropriation and sufficient budget for this work. 

Erebus Story for all New Zealanders

 Some Erebus family members have indicated that they would be willing to contribute to the narrative work we are developing, The Erebus Story for all New Zealanders. This work will share the human stories of Erebus. 
We will be contacting people who have indicated their interest in being involved in this work shortly to organise interviews. We will provide guidance ahead of the interviews about how the process will work and have begun work on the ethics and consent process.

Conclusion

We had received a question before the meeting asking how many families we contact. We have approximately 280 Erebus family members in a database of 454 people (including members of Operation Overdue). We reminded the group that the invitation to attend monthly meetings are always open, and to let us know if there is someone missing from our database. 
 


1 August 2023

On 1 August 2023 the Ministry met with Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue to provide them with a project update.

At the meeting Rev Dr Richard Waugh offered an opening prayer before talking to the origins of the memorial project.

Government made a decision to build a national Erebus Memorial in 2017, at which time responsibility to undertake this work was handed to Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Since then, Rev Waugh has provided pastoral care for families and continues his work as a trusted advisor on aviation history.

Site selection

We have now shared the refined criteria for site selection with a prospective third-party assessor, so they can give us their feedback, and the criteria has been shared with Auckland Council for their initial feedback.

We have incorporated feedback into the site selection criteria by Professor Jacky Bowring, who is supporting us with this mahi. We will give Auckland Council the final site selection criteria by 1 September, to begin the process of identifying a list of potential memorial sites.

The Erebus Story for all New Zealanders

We provided a brief update on the narrative work we are facilitating, to ensure that the Erebus story is known to all New Zealanders, now and into the future. We confirmed that some individuals have expressed an interest in having their story shared. Some people have indicated that there is existing content that they are happy to have included in the Erebus Story for all New Zealanders.

If anyone else is interested in being involved, please let us know by emailing [email protected].


4 July 2023

On 4 July 2023, Manatū Taonga provided Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue with a project update. This update included information about the site criteria feedback and refinement and work we are undertaking on the Erebus Story for all New Zealanders.

Site criteria

We thanked families and shared some of their feedback on the draft refined site criteria. We received 19 responses with a number relating to site preference(s) and design considerations and, a smaller number specifically related to the criteria.

We have commissioned from Jacky Bowring, Professor of Landscape Architecture at Lincoln University, a review of the draft criteria and feedback received. Professor Bowring has incorporated this feedback as far as is practicable, and a refined set of criteria was presented along with a weighting approach for the criteria. The next step is sharing the criteria with Auckland Council to beginning the process of identifying potential sites.

The Erebus Story for all New Zealanders

An update was provided on the broader work that the Ministry is undertaking around the Erebus Story for all New Zealanders, noting that this is an important example of core work that the Ministry undertakes to ensure that stories critical to New Zealand’s history are curated and widely shared.

We have been adding material to the New Zealand Curriculum in the education section of the NZ History website as well as reviewing existing content with a view to refreshing content and adding new stories. We have also been investigating places and spaces that could carry elements of the Erebus story in its widest context.

There is an opportunity to add material on the stories of people involved in order to share their stories, reflections and insights. Family members and those associated with Operation Overdue have been invited to contact the Ministry at [email protected] if they would like to participate in this work.


31 May 2023

On 31 May 2023, Manatū Taonga met with Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue to talk through the next steps in the National Erebus Memorial programme. At the meeting we provided an update on the National Erebus Memorial programme, including how we will engage and consult with Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue moving forward, our goals for 2023, sharing an invite to participate in Matariki observations from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, and our approach to site selection and the refinement of site criteria.

The first step in our approach to site selection is for the Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue to provide feedback on the criteria for a National Erebus Memorial site. The criteria have been reviewed and draft refinements developed to align with our expectations of an enduring memorial site. After we have received feedback on the criteria and evaluated this, we will confirm the criteria and begin the process with Auckland Council to identify a list of available potential memorial sites.

We will then have discussions with relevant tangata whenua, entities and authorities, before confirming a short-list. The shortlist will then be assessed by an independent third party against the criteria. Following this we will engage with Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue.


28 April 2023 

On 28 April 2023, Chief Executive Leauanae Laulu Mac Leauanae and Deputy Chief Executive Delivery Glenis Philip-Barbara shared with Erebus families and members of Operation Overdue that we will be seeking a new site for the National Erebus Memorial.

We had been preparing to resume site establishment works and construction of the National Erebus Memorial at Taurarua / Dove-Myer Robinson Park in Parnell, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

However, the extreme and unprecedented weather events in the North Island in January and February led to significant land slips occurring along the cliff line at Dove-Myer Robinson Park. One of the slips occurred in the vicinity of the memorial site.

In light of these events, the Ministry commissioned updated geotechnical engineering advice to ensure the memorial design is appropriate both now, and in the future.

Updated geotechnical engineering advice and decision-making

The new geotechnical engineering assessment concludes that there are significant ramifications for constructing the National Erebus Memorial at the site. Notably:

  • The report concludes that the damage to the site caused by the recent extreme weather means the land is now unsafe to build the memorial on for the long term.
  • The recommendations in the original geotechnical investigation report are no longer deemed valid, and this may have implications for the regulatory approvals previously granted for the memorial.

While the report identifies potential options that could allow the memorial to be built at the site (including installing a large palisade wall or piling the structure down to rock) neither option is feasible for the long term.

After careful consideration of the advice, and receiving feedback from our project partners Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Auckland Council, we have made the difficult decision that a new site for the National Erebus Memorial needs to be found.

Next steps

The New Zealand Government and Manatū Taonga remain absolutely committed to realising the National Erebus Memorial. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has also reaffirmed its ongoing support for the Erebus families and outlined their commitment to seeing the Memorial built in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

We will be taking some time to consider what the next steps will be and will continue working closely with Erebus families and our project partners to secure a new, enduring home for the memorial and complete the project.

We will also be progressing plans to ensure the Erebus story, which occupies an important place in our nation’s history, is understood and appreciated by present and future generations.

Further information about next steps in the project will be publicly available soon. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].