Outsider heads quake memorial committee

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012

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Families who lost loved ones in the Christchurch earthquake are asking why a Wellingtonian has been chosen to chair the Government's earthquake memorial committee.

The committee includes nominated representatives from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Christchurch City Council, Ngai Tahu and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Wellingtonian Ronald Milne, the ministry's deputy chief executive, is the committee's chairman.

The group met for the first time on November 14 and earmarked 13 central-city sites that could possibly host the multimillion-dollar memorial, Milne said.

A competition to design the memorial will be launched next year and a panel of people from the community, including design professionals and a representative from the victims' families, will judge the winner.

The committee was yet to contact families but Milne said it was still speaking to key leaders, such as Mayor Bob Parker and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

"We want to let the families know what the process is and what the timescale will be and we will be writing to them in the near future," he said.

However, some families felt the lack of communication was offensive.

Widow Marie Malone had earlier expressed an interest in being included in the committee and told The Press she had not heard a word from anybody.

"I am astounded and very disappointed that a committee has been formed with regard to the memorial - I do not believe we have a representative from the victims. The victims should be the ones who have the say, not more committees deciding for us."

Malone also believed it would have been "more sensitive" to choose a Christchurch person to head the committee.

"If you are not brought up in the city you don't have that empathy and love for it in your bones. It should be a Christchurch person, born and bred," she said.

Widower Murray Grant agreed: "A local man would have been a better bet".

Julie Caldwell, who lost her husband, Ian, said a Cantabrian would have a "better indication of what the feeling of the memorial should be like".

The Press spoke to about 20 families yesterday and most felt the appointment of a Wellingtonian was odd but said they still had faith the Government would create something dignified to honour their loved ones.

Milne sympathised with the families' concerns but said the ministry had no Christchurch-based staff that could head the group.

The committee was only the "co-ordinating group" and the final decision on the design would rest with a panel from the Christchurch community, he said.

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Carolyn Ingles from the council, Elizabeth Cunningham from Ngai Tahu and Michelle Mitchell from Cera are also on the committee.

The next meeting will be held early next month.

- The Press

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