21 February, 2015

An Important part of Chinese New Zealand history.

In October 1902, the SS Ventnor set a course to Hong Kong, carrying on board a shipment of coal, some dried fungus and at least 499 bone coffins of Chinese who had lived their lives in New Zealand and did not return to their villages. On the way, the ship hit some rocks off the Taranaki coast and was limping towards Auckland when it sank 10 miles off the Hokianga Harbour and in deep deep water. Three lifeboats of men survived, coming into the harbour across the tricky bar, 13 lives were lost including Captain Ferry and some of the Chinese men who were tasked with the care of the coffins during the passage home. Some coffins floated up on shore, and were reburied at Kawarua.

Human bones, some in bags, some by themselves washed up along the beach. Maori picked them up with the intention that they needed to go back to China, but before that could happen, the boat left some of them at Rawene, believing that they might bring bad luck onto any crew of any boat. We are still trying to find the area in Rawene cemetery where these bones might have been buried..

There is a plaque at Te Roroa Headquarters at Kawerua, acknowledging our (Chinese) thanks to Maori for their care of our ancestors since they buried the bones that they found following the disaster. Another plaque to thank Te Rarawa is at Mitimiti.

The trip on 2nd & 3rd of May will visit all the sites for you to view them, burn some joss sticks for the ancestors regardless of whether they are your own village ancestors or not. Given we are over 100 years after the event, these souls are simply ‘our’ ancestors that need acknowledging. It's a great trip, and better with a group of Chinese. The Far North is so different from the rest of New Zealand. Come on up……

2015- NZCA – National Trip to the Far North

Join in with a group of Chinese from all over New Zealand for this historic event – Poon Fah are unveiling their granite plaque.

Saturday 2rd May

Leaving Auckland Saturday 2nd May, 7.00am

Countdown car park, cnr Greenlane Road and Great South Rd.

Travel to Dargaville, short break, last supplies

Te Roroa Headquarters – Walk through the Ventnor Grove, and give thanks to the ancestors in front of the plaque we offered to Te Roroa. Bring joss sticks.

Meal at Te Roroa café.

Visit Tane Mahuta – oldest largest and majestic tree. If you feel old, stand beside this fella and you will come away feeling youthful.

Travel to Signal Station Road – where the SS Ventnor was last sighted. Stand looking out to sea. At 10 o’clock 10 miles out to sea is where the wreck site lies. To the right you see the harbour where the life boats landed.

Travel to Old Wharf Road, where the scene in front of you will bring that very well known photograph alive. Its where the survivors beached their life boats.

Travel to your accommodation….. Self cater for evening meal

Travel to Rawene Cemetery. We know that there are bones buried there. Wander around and tell us where you think they might be. Chinese Historic Group are planning to have the area surveyed later this year.

6.30pm No 1 Parnell Gallery, Rawene.

An evening presentation with Wong Liu Shueng, Project leader for the Chinese Historic Ventnor Group (now under NZCA – National.) Plenty of time to ask questions, the more the better.

7.30pm wander around the gallery and look at the exquisite photographs taken by Dr King Tong Ho- the story of what happened when we fed the ‘hungry ghosts’ the first time after 110 years.

Fund raiser – Ralph Hotere books (through the kind generosity of Ron Sang) will be on sale $65.00

Sunday 3rd May

8.30am For the early birds – go to the Hokianga Museum, run by a group of volunteers. They are making a huge effort to get on loan some Chinese artefacts for this occasion. They also hold a record of the research on the project to date.

9.30am Leave for Mitimiti, via ferry. Meet up with the Kaumatua, Peter Martin (Uncle Mingo) who will lead us up into the urupa (cemetery) to the red gateway. Two years ago we placed a brass plaque on the gateway, but it has corroded badly, and now unreadable. This plaque is being replaces by a granite one. The Poon Fah will lead the unveiling.

Nearby is the grave of artist Ralph Hotere.

Bring your own cut lunch and picnic on the beach where the ancestors bones were washed a shore.

Then travel back to Auckland. I would suggest a stop in Kerikeri before you leave the Far North.

Cost $195 per person – travel to and from Auckland, ferry, accommodation, meal at Te Roroa on Saturday. Payment can be direct credited to:

NZCA Auckland - ANZ 060287 0016463 00, giving name and Branch.

Get a group together from your branch and come.

Book your seat now – email Connie Kum cojay@xtra.co.nz or Virginia vchong@ihug.co.nz

Bring food, shops sell only basics. Bring clothing for four seasons. Cell phone cover intermittent.

For people travelling to Auckland.

Please arrive on Friday 1st May 2015.

Please arrange your own accommodation and transport to the Countdown Greenlane on Saturday morning. Please do NOT book an airfare back to your home until Monday 4th May.

There are a dozen reasons why there might be a delay getting into Auckland. The usual one is traffic.

Download NZCA 2015 Trip details