An artist’s depiction of the planned memorial designed by Richard Tam

Memorial grant for wreck

by Paul Campbell

A memorial to the SS Ventnor and those who were lost when it sank off the west coast in 1902 has been granted $100,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund.

The Ventnor was chartered to repatriate the remains of 499 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 forever,” says Regional Development Minister Shane Jones.

In 2007, a connection was formalised between Te Roroa and the descendants of the Chinese gold miners and a grove of 22 kauri trees was planted and a Chinese gate constructed to memorialise the sinking. The wreck was discovered in 2012 and is now a National Heritage Site.

“In 2007, it was discovered some bones had washed ashore. They were gathered up, and buried near Te Roroa ancestral burial grounds and the local Rawene cemetery,” said Mr Jones.

“Once that was discovered, the New Zealand Chinese Association talked to the descendant families and it was decided a memorial would be built to honour the lost ancestors and to thank the people of Hokianga, especially Te Roroa and Te Rarawa.”

Information panels at the memorial will commemorate those lost and outline the history of the event in English, Maori and Chinese languages.

The memorial will be a feature of the Northland Regional Council’s Wandering With Ancestors trail, a cornerstone project in Northland’s Economic Action Plan.