Funding helps Ventnor memorial get over the line

Published: May 18, 2020

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A memorial to the SS Ventnor and those who were lost when it sank off the Hokianga coast in 1902, is to be built at the new Manea Footprints of Kupe centre in Opononi.

The Ventnor was chartered to repatriate to China’s Guangdong province the remains of around 500 Chinese miners who died in New Zealand.

When it sank the remains were lost, along with 13 sailors and passengers who died in the wreck. 

It was thought all the remains were lost, but in 2007 it was discovered some bones had washed ashore. Hokianga locals, including iwi members from Te Roroa and Te Rarawa buried these in the local Rawene cemetery or near the Te Roroa ancestral burial grounds. 

Once that was discovered the New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA) talked to the descendant families and it was decided to build a memorial to honour the lost ancestors and to thank the people of the Hokianga, especially Te Roroa and Te Rarawa. 

The memorial will be a key feature of the Northland Regional Council’s Wandering with Ancestors tourism trail which is a cornerstone project in Northland’s Economic Action Plan: "Northland Journeys – the Byways". 

It will also have a strong draw for domestic tourism as it will connect New Zealanders with their history and celebrate their shared culture and values. 

NZCA Ventnor chairperson Meng Foon said the Association wanted to express its gratitude to Te Hua o te Kawariki Trust for welcoming the memorial on their whenua and the Provincial Growth Fund for providing funding to help make the project a reality.  

The memorial was designed by Auckland and New York-based TT Architects whose founders, Richard Tam and Robert Tse, are both descendants of early Chinese New Zealand settlers. 

The concept behind the design is for visitors to walk along the concrete pathway as if they were going on a journey. This is enhanced by graduated Corten steel panels that rise to a standing position at the pathway’s end.

The information panels at the end of the path commemorate those lost and give thanks to the people of the Hokianga. An outline of the history of the event will be in English, Māori and Chinese.