Protesters have disrupted the start of the building of a memorial to the victims of the Erebus Disaster in Auckland today.

There was a stand-off this morning between opponents of the project, construction crew and security guards at Dove Myer Robinson Park, better known as the Parnell Rose Gardens, where the memorial Te Paerangi Ataata – Sky Song, is to be erected.

The memorial honours the 257 people who died when an Air New Zealand plane crashed into Mt Erebus in Antarctica in 1979.

Protesters have been occupying the site since February, but have not been staying overnight since Covid-19 restrictions were brought in on August 17.

Stuff reported a resident saying two trucks with fences, another car and trailer, and about 30 security guards arrived about 9am, to be greeted by about 20 opponents at a cone barrier.

A group of kaumātua had placed a rāhui, or ritual ban, on the site, banning work on the Manatū Taonga – Ministry of Culture and Heritage project. One of the elders was present on Tuesday morning.

The resident said a police officer arrived to talk to those gathered, and after about 20 minutes, the construction crew and security guards left.

Bernadette Cavanagh, chief executive of Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage, said when contractors arrived at the site this morning to start work on the National Erebus Memorial a number of protesters arrived to block the entrances.

She said contractors have stood down while police and security talk with the protesters.

“We are taking a non-confrontational approach,” said Cavanagh, saying the ministry has worked hard over the past few months to address their concerns.

“In particular, I would like to assure the public that the notable pōhutukawa tree at the site will not be harmed by the establishment of the memorial. The tree will remain outside the construction area. It is safe, and will continue to be kept safe, throughout the construction of the memorial and beyond,” she said.

“As always, the families of the Erebus accident are at the heart of our continued mahi to create the Memorial. I know this further delay will be particularly disappointing for them.”

Police said they had a small presence at the protest and no action was required, but reminded protesters of their obligations under alert level 3 and around trespass. They were warned that further breaches could result in enforcement action.

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