Residents, relatives furious over Erebus air tragedy memorial decision delay

Some Waitemata residents, including relatives of the 257 people who died in the 1979 Erebus disaster, are furious that a decision on whether or not to erect a controversial memorial to the victims has been delayed.

The proposed Erebus memorial design. Source: Ministry of Culture and Heritage

The Waitematā Local Board had been due to vote on the proposed memorial in Parnell's Dove-Myer Robinson Park, but at the 11th hour the Ministry of Culture and Heritage delayed this until it secures resource consent and approval from Heritage New Zealand.

The proposed memorial, called Te Paerangi Ataata - Sky Song, is staunchly opposed by some locals, who say the area is too small for the structure and that it will ruin the ambience of the park.

There are many, though, who want to see it built, including family members of passengers who died on the sightseeing flight.

The ministry has said some families expressed disappointment, hurt and sadness that after 40 years of trauma, that they are "still having to battle for a broader acknowledgement of the loss of their loved ones".

Parnell resident Jo Malcolm, whose father-in-law Alan Stokes died in the tragedy, is one of those opposed to the proposed memorial.

Today she presented the Waitematā Local Board with a petition signed by close to 700 people before giving an impassioned presentation as to why it should be built elsewhere.

"We are deeply disappointed at yesterday's turn of events. We are equally disappointed it would appear the ministry considers it is able to dictate the terms of this process, notwithstanding that it is the board that has responsibility for making the decision on land owner approval," she said.

"During the period of consultation and following it, a huge amount of work by a large number of people has gone into addressing the issues surrounding the proposed location of the memorial, including by the board, ourselves and other interested parties.

"During that time - around two months ago - the board announced the decision on land owner approval would be made today. There has been significant media interest [and] the overwhelming feedback from Waitematā is that this is the wrong memorial in the wrong park."

She accused the ministry of acting arrogantly by announcing less than 24 hours before the meeting that it was delaying its application.

"This board should be infuriated that the ministry should consider that it should be able to treat the board with such blatant disregard," she said.

"We are certainly furious that the ministry should have treated all of the interested parties - including Erebus family members - with such blatant disregard."

The ministry has said it will arrange an alternative time for the matter to be considered next year.