Parnell locals protest Erebus memorial plan

Parnell locals protest Erebus memorial plan


From under the boughs of a majestic pōhutukawa
tree, a grassy lawn gently slopes towards the Waitematā Harbour. This is the spot in
Dove-Myer Robinson Park, better known as the Parnell Rose Gardens, for which an Erebus
memorial is planned. But the project has been delayed due to objections from neighbours
who say the large structure is not suitable. A campaign to ‘save’ the park is spearheaded
by residents Anne Coney and Jo Malcolm, who say the memorial would ruin the happy vibe
of the green space. “I can understand why someone might want to put a memorial in a
place that’s as beautiful as this, but memorials are sad, and this is a really sad memorial
– 257 people. I think absolutely a memorial is not the wrong thing to do, our only objection
is the site. This site is not the most appropriate site for a national memorial.” Malcolm says
her husband, whose father died in the crash, supports her views. The monument called Te
Paerangi Ataata – Sky Song, features a large cantilevered concrete pathway rising northeast
towards the harbour, flanked by high walls featuring 257 individual snowflakes and the
names of the dead. Kathryn Carter, whose father – pilot Jim Collins – died in the crash, was
one of the family members involved in selecting the design. “The idea behind the concept of
the design relates to the journey into the sky, which is quite specific to the Erebus
accident. Because all the people onboard the aircraft, including the cockpit crew and all
the passengers, were looking forward to the journey to the ice, because it was something
unique and special.” Ms Carter and other Erebus family members were looking forward to a sod-turning
ceremony next week on the 40th anniversary of the tragedy, but neighbour’s protests,
delayed landowner approval – and the sod-turning plans have been cancelled. “Delays are always
disappointing. In this regard I think, you hope for resolution, you hope for something
to happen that will be a gathering place for families affected by Erebus and, the goalposts
are shifted again, and that’s hard.” John Stewart was 34 when his aunt Dawn Matthews
died in the crash. He’s now 74, and says 40 years is an inexcusably long time to wait
for a memorial. “I think if the memorial had been gone ahead with, in its current form
and position when things were still relatively fresh in the public mind, I don’t think you’d
have this NIMBYism that’s happening in Parnell with the locals. NIMBYism – Not In My Back
Yard.” John Stewart worries he won’t be around to see the Erebus memorial completed, but
Parnell resident Anne Coney denies accusations of NIMBYism. “I don’t think that’s being a
NIMBY, it’s that it’s just way too big for this small park. If it’s someplace else with
more space around it, well that’s fine but if they want a memorial here, please could
it be in keeping with the small Edwardian area and that’s fine, most welcome, but for
a thing that looks like an onramp to the third harbour bridge crossing, please put it in
a larger space.” Anne Coney and Jo Malcolm have lobbied against the memorial, setting
up a Facebook page, a petition, engaging lawyers, and even threatening to protest the now-cancelled
sod-turning. Consequently the Waitematā Local Board which owns the land has delayed the
decision and opened public consultation on the memorial. Parnell resident and historian
Rendell McIntosh believes an initial lack of consultation is what’s bugged locals, rather
than a severe case of NIMBYism. “I honestly believe that it’s just taken people by surprise,
there wasn’t the good consultation in the early days, there could’ve been a letterbox
drop, for example, put around the local people saying ‘give us your thoughts, yes or no,’
so literally it was put through as a fait accompli that it was just automatically decided,
so I think that was the main anger from a lot of the local people. And obviously as
time goes on they get emotionally caught up, and say ‘is the scale wrong’ and that type
of thing, so there certainly has been a momentum against the sculpture going in.” Either way,
retired police inspector Greg Gilpin is disappointed at the neighbour’s reaction. “This is New
Zealand’s largest disaster in terms of loss of life, and there’s still nothing. No memorial
to remember these people who died. It seems like it’s a case of people not wanting it
in their own backyard or whatever. It sounds rather selfish to me. But I know what they’d
say to me, if it was in your backyard would you want it, well I would want it, because
I think it would be an honour to have it to remember these people who died, so it’s difficult
to understand really.” But Anne Coney and Jo Malcolm are still convinced the Parnell
park is not the right place, as it already has monuments commemorating the Korean War,
Dutch soldiers, and a plethora of remembrance benches. Ms Malcolm says she doesn’t think
the lives lost in Erebus are any more important than the memorials already in the park. “How
is this enhancing the site? How does this add any value to the site? We would not see
the sea. From here we would simply have lost our view.” The Waitematā Local Board will
decide whether to say yes or no to the Erebus national memorial at a meeting on December
3.

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