Thursday, April 25, 2024

Erebus Memorial group: We’re being ignored!

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A voluntary group – which includes spokesperson Rev Dr Richard Waugh of Howick – has been campaigning the past 18 months for the national memorial to the 257 people who died in the 1979 Mt Erebus air accident. Photo R. McPhail

A group fighting to have a national memorial erected to remember the 257 people killed on an ill-fated Air NZ flight in 1979 believes it is being ignored and is now challenging political parties to step up.

The lack of progress on an Erebus National Memorial has annoyed Erebus families’ representative David Allan of Hawkes Bay, who lost both parents and his teenage sister in the Erebus aviation tragedy.

“The excuses and the procrastination are extremely frustrating. We have been ignored, resulting in a lack of any tangible progress over much of this year,” Mr Allan said.

“It is embarrassing for the Erebus families and the procrastination can only be described as appalling.”

A voluntary group – which includes spokesperson Rev Dr Richard Waugh of Howick – has been campaigning the past 18 months for the national memorial to the 257 people who died in the 1979 Mt Erebus air accident of Air New Zealand McDonnell Douglas DC-10 ZK-NZP, Flight TE901. It is still the worst aviation accident in the Southern Hemisphere.

Rev Waugh, an aviation chaplain and historian, said there has been no tangible interest shown by Government.

“The national memorial for New Zealand’s worst civil disaster has been too long coming,” he said.

“Compared to the responsiveness of central and local Government to the Canterbury Earthquake victims’ families and Pike River families, it is a matter of deep regret that the Government has dragged its feet in responding to the pleas of the thousands of people who remain affected by the Mt Erebus accident.

“The families are quite reasonably asking for a special place where all 257 names can be together and where people can gather for reflection, prayer and remembering.”

The voluntary advisory group, with Lady June Hillary as Patron, is advocating for the new national memorial to be ready in time for the 40th anniversary in November 2019.

Rev Waugh and Mr Allan have issued a challenge to all political parties, on behalf of the Erebus National Memorial project, representing many Erebus families.

“We are now asking all political parties to consider the importance of the Erebus National Memorial and state their support or otherwise.

“This memorial is more important than party politics and it would be a further tragedy to many of the older Erebus family members if the national memorial was not ready for the 40th anniversary in November 2019.”

Dr Waugh added: “Our advisory group is in touch with many surviving spouses and siblings and other close family, many of whom are now in their 70s and 80s.

“They are waiting for a proper national memorial to the air accident. Did the Government tell the Pike River families and the families of those who died in the Canterbury earthquakes to wait 40 or 50 years before any memorial? Of course not.

“Yet it is not too late for the next Government to help the Erebus families in their ongoing grief, create an elegant and attractive place where all 257 names can be honoured, and where New Zealand as a nation can remember its worst civil disaster.”

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