Many young or new New Zealanders may have only learnt in the past few weeks about the aviation accident in Antarctica on November 28, 1979. It is one of the great tragedies of our nation that 257 people died on Mt Erebus that day. The accident was the worst in New Zealand's aviation history.
As a small country, the Erebus tragedy shocked the nation. Everyone knew someone and I acknowledge the many New Zealanders whose lives were changed that day and who continue to mourn their loved ones to this day. On the 40th anniversary I apologised, on behalf of the Government and alongside Air New Zealand, for the Erebus accident of 1979.
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The anniversary last week is generating discussion about an event that should not be forgotten. For some, it will not be an easy discussion to have but it is one we must hold. We must acknowledge the past, remember the sorrow and make sure we continue to support those most affected. For many, it will come as a shock to learn that an event of this magnitude has not been captured in a national memorial.
Memorials play an important part in helping us do all three. The plan to create a National Erebus Memorial by 2020 is immensely important to those at the heart of the Erebus tragedy: the families of the Erebus victims and the members of Operation Overdue who endured the unimaginably difficult conditions of Antarctica to bring the victims home. The efforts by police and so many others were truly extraordinary, and I know these memories must be a heavy burden to carry to this day.
It is the families and members of Operation Overdue who were, and rightly continue to be, at the centre of the tragedy. Many family members have told me how much they appreciate that a memorial is being built, to provide them with a special place to remember their loved ones. It will be an accessible and peaceful place for families, and for the nation, to respect and remember those who lost their lives.
As we look back at this tragic part of our history, I encourage you all to think of those who lost their lives: whether they were close family or members of our wider New Zealand community. The memorial will mark our recognition of a major disaster, and our understanding that there are lessons to be learnt from it.
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It will signify our enduring human response to give comfort to our fellow citizens, both as we commemorate anniversaries and as part of our day to day lives.
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• Jacinda Ardern is the Prime Minister of New Zealand and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.