New SS Ventnor memorial opens in Opononi

The New Zealand Chinese Association’s (NZCA) Ventnor memorial saw its first light of day on 9 December 2020 in a emotional dawn ceremony just opposite Opononi beach.

The memorial honours the 499 Chinese and 13 crew and passengers who were lost in the 1902 sinking of the SS Ventnor off the Hokianga coast. It also pays tribute to the people of the Hokianga, who gathered the remains that drifted ashore and buried them with care and respect.

Sited at the new Manea Footprints of Kupe centre in Opononi, the memorial stands across the road from the beach, very close to where lifeboats from the SS Ventnor came to shore.

“We are hugely proud to see our memorial complete,” says Richard Leung, NZCA National President. “We wanted to honour our ancestors and all those who sheltered and cared for our ancestors’ remains. We think the memorial achieves that.”

“We’re deeply grateful to Te Hua o te Kawariki Trust for making space for us on the Manea site. The partnership is ideal for us. The whole idea was to make sure the history was passed down to future generations of New Zealanders. So having the memorial sited at Manea, which is set to be such an educational hub for the area, is great. In many ways, this is just the start of a journey.”

Meng Foon, chair of the NZCA’s Ventnor committee agrees. “It’s all about those values of respect – respect for the ancestors, respect and honour to Te Roroa, Te Rarawa and all those who have cared for our ancestors’ remains, and respect for ourselves and others. Those things are all part of the history of Aotearoa New Zealand, and that’s why we need to hold on to it.”

The first Chinese memorial ceremony will be held in 2021.