On 7-9 April 2018, around 50 New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA) members and friends travelled to the Hokianga. The purpose was to pay respects at Rawene cemetery – the proposed site of the NZCA Ventnor memorial, and at the Ventnor-related sites in Mitimiti and the Waipoua forest.
William McKee of Toitū: Otago Settlers Museum & The Dunedin Chinese Garden, travelled with us and put together this beautiful short movie you see above. If you have time, do watch it. It’s such an evocative reflection of a really special journey. Other members of our group have also recorded their reflections of the trip. Check out James To’s personal story on how the quintessential New Zealand “walk on the beach” turned into a spiritual pilgrimage on the Asia New Zealand foundation website.
An important reason for our visit was to pay respects at Rawene cemetery. Earlier this year we had a very unfortunate incident at our proposed Ventnor memorial site in Rawene cemetery. As a result of Cyclone Gita and persistent flooding during construction, a part of the foundation caved in and impinged on nearby graves. NZCA took the decision to immediately fill in the site. The trip north was to apologise in person to the people of Rawene, pay our respects at the remediated site and view the proposed new site in a different part of the cemetery. We are now in a consultation process for the proposed new site. The mechanics of that process have yet to be confirmed, but we look forward to working with the Far North District Council, the Community Board and the rest of the community. If you’d like to be on our update list please email NZCA@nzchinese.org.nz
Memorial plaque at Te Roroa’s Waipoua Visitors’ Centre in the Waipoua Forest
In 1902 the SS Ventnor sank off New Zealand’s Hokianga coast. With it went the remains of around 500 Chinese, mostly goldminers who had come to New Zealand to seek their fortune but who died far from home. The remains were being returned to their families in China, but they never made it.
We, the early settler Chinese community, honour all those who were lost in the sinking, and extend deep gratitude to the people of the Hokianga, Māori and Pakeha, who respectfully collected the remains that washed ashore. We especially thank Te Roroa and Te Rarawa, whose ancestors laid the remains to rest in their own ancestral burial grounds, and whose people have remembered and cared for them ever since.
Our work today
We want to make sure this special part of New Zealand’s history is preserved and promoted. In 2017, we launched a new project to build a significant and enduring memorial so future generations can connect to their culture and history, and for all New Zealanders to pay their respects and celebrate our shared values and common history.
The proposed sculpture / memorial will be built at Rawene cemetery, and will complement the smaller scale plaques in the Waipoua forest and at Mitimiti which were gifted to Te Roroa and Te Rarawa in memory of the lost and in thanks for the care that they have shown our ancestors.
The sculpture will be a key feature of the Northland Regional Council’s “Wandering with Ancestors” tourism trail. The trail is part of “Northland Journeys – the Byways”, a cornerstone project within the Northland Economic Action Plan.
Find out more …