14 April, 2018
Report About the SS Ventnor Trip
Saturday 7 April to Monday 9 April
By Linus Chin
My thanks go to all those supportive people in the SS Ventnor Sub-Committee who helped organise the trip. Special thanks to Wong Liu Sheung, Connie and John Kum, Lynette Shum, Awi, and Kirsten Wong who came on tour. It was great to meet a diverse group of travellers who came on tour as well.
We left Auckland at 7.00am on Saturday 7 April, aiming to arrive at Opononi to check in and drop off bags at our accommodation before heading to Rawene Cemetery. At the cemetery we would see where the next proposed site for the SS Ventnor Memorial would be.
Upon arrival at the cemetery the were around 40 to 50 people waiting for us already. Steve Morunga, the Rawene kaumatua greeted us and invited us onto the cemetery where an arrangement of flowers from NZCA was laid near the old site. Steve led us onto the cemetery level with the proposed site where he blessed the proposed site. This is a powerful sign of approval for our cause.
During the visit to the Rawene Cemetery and the proposed new site for the SS Ventnor Memorial we asked the people who met us to come to the Rawene Town Hall where we could have afternoon tea after which we could continue talks and have a meal together afterward the meeting.
Following afternoon tea, the Q&A Panel convened and was made of Steve Morunga (Rawene Kaumatua), Rob Cassidy (Chair of Te Mahurehure, and Community Board Member), Wong Liu Sheung (Project Driver), Kirsten Wong (Communications and Media), Lynette Shum (Poon Fah Representative, James To (NZCA Secretary), Nigel Murphy (Historian and Author) Ted Wihongi (Far North District Council Liaison), and myself. (NZCA Representative and President OSCA)
We fielded a lot of questions from a varied group of people. Most appeared to be issues that were more in the realm of council affairs, such as drainage, flooding, consultation and consultation period, and up keep of the cemetery, which were in general fielded by the council representative.
Matters concerning NZCA were questions such as why Rawene Cemetery? Why is it so big? Why was it planned originally in the site which was covered over? Can’t it be smaller? Can it be somewhere else? Etc.
The panel spoke about each question and I am confident that we represented our stance adequately in each instance.
After the meeting and meal, we went to our accommodation to get some rest and reflect on our welcome to Rawene.
On Sunday we began our day travelling to Miti Miti to visit with Te Rarawa. After a powhiri, and a response by Awi, we entered the marae and went into the meeting hall. A welcome was made and Awi responded, and then I expressed our pleasure to renew our bonds with Te Rawara and thank them for welcoming us home. Following our meeting we went on to view the “Red Gate” and bai san at the site of our plaque, then wander down onto the beach where the bones were found.
After lunch we farewelled Te Rarawa and made our way back to Rawene and on to Station Hill Rd where we were met by a Te Roroa representative.
Here we walked onto the headland that affords a view over the area of harbour where the boat sunk and overlooking where the lifeboats landed after the sinking. We then stopped at the area where the lifeboats landed and went back for a BBQ at our accommodations.
On Monday we made our way to Tane Mahuta and Te Roroa in the Waipoua Forest where we were welcomed onto the marae and Awi responded.
After the welcome we were led to the Ventnor grove and heard that the Kauri dieback had affected some of the trees in the grove.
Those trees are now in isolation to see if they survive. If they survive they will be planted back. If they die, then they will be replaced with a native tree. After bai san at the grove we journeyed to the coast through Te Roroa land and were guided to the base of the area where the iwi believes the remains were buried.
Returning by bus we had lunch at the marae and then boarded the bus for our journey back to Auckland.