The plan to build a memorial to the SS Ventnor, and those who were lost when it sank off the Hokianga coast in 1902, has been granted $100,000 from the government's Provincial Growth Fund.
The memorial, originally planned for a site near the entrance to the Rāwene cemetery, will now be built at the new Manea Footprints of Kupe Centre in Opononi, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said when he announced the grant yesterday.
The Ventnor was chartered to repatriate to China's Guangdong province the remains of 499 Chinese miners who died in New Zealand. When it sank the remains were lost, along with 13 sailors and passengers.
"It was thought all the remains were lost forever," Mr Jones said, "but in 2007 it was discovered that some bones had washed ashore. They were gathered up by Hokianga locals, including iwi members from Te Roroa and Te Rarawa, and buried near Te Roroa ancestral burial grounds and the Rāwene cemetery.
"The New Zealand Chinese Association then talked to the descendant families, and it was decided that 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, Māori and Chinese languages.
The memorial will be a key feature of the Northland Regional Council's Wandering With Ancestors trail, a cornerstone project in Northland's Economic Action Plan.
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.
In 2018 then Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board member Shaun Reilly said the memorial had been badly handled by the Far North District Council, as a result of which the local people and the descendants of the Chinese miners were not being shown the respect they deserved.
Te Rarawa and Te Roroa had been "utterly respectful" in burying the remains in their own urupa, with their own people, and perhaps the matter would have been better left there, he said.
The community board had approved the New Zealand Chinese Association's proposal for a large memorial, that it was prepared to fund, at the cemetery, subject to an exception being obtained under Section K Schedule 1 of the Building Act.
"This was an error," Mr Reilly said.
"That bylaw was defunct. Unseemly haste and careless planning is not a good foundation for this or any other project.
"This board, and even the FNDC itself, has no right to agree to anything for the Rāwene cemetery.
"It belongs to the people of the Hokianga," Mr Reilly said.
It was agreed to seek another site for the memorial in April 2018, after construction work, and heavy rain two months beforehand, caused the grave of Rāwene identity Bill Tuckey — who had died three months earlier at the age of 105 — to collapse, and at least one more grave was damaged.
The Far North District Council, which said it didn't know work had started and had had no chance to discuss the memorial's exact location, ordered an immediate halt to the project.