Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry has announced a $40,000 cash contribution along with DOC planting and landscaping to upgrade the site of the Tangiwai Memorial in the central North Island.
Ms Barry today took part in the unveiling of a new memorial yesterday to mark the courage and sacrifice of train driver Charles Parker and fireman Lance Redman who helped save the lives of 134 people when the Wellington to Auckland night express plunged in to the swollen Whangaehu River on Christmas Eve 1953.
“Often the very worst of circumstances bring out the very best in New Zealanders. Tangiwai proved that in times of tragedy the courage of kiwis rises to meet the challenge,” Ms Barry says.
“As the bridge began to collapse Charles Parker and Lance Redman applied the emergency brake and sanded the tracks for 200 meters to help the entire train to brake faster, preventing the last three passenger carriages, guards van and postal van, from falling into the river.”
“134 people survived but 151 died in the tragedy that shook New Zealand to its core. With a population at the time of just over two million most people knew someone involved, bringing it very close to home.”
“The government built a national memorial in Wellington and there are other monuments at the site and I’m pleased Tangiwai Memorial Park is now receiving the care and attention befitting a place of such deep significance,” Ms Barry says.
“As well as the $40,000 from the Ministry for Arts, Culture and Heritage, DOC has worked on the new walking track and viewing area, and will continue to provide help with the landscape design and interpretation panels.”
“I applaud the Ruapehu Lion’s Club, which initiated the project to enhance this site and has carried out a lot of the work and thank the Ruapehu District Council; Ngati Rangi; and all the sponsors supporting the project.”
“That Government is able to assist with funding, tools, plants and labour-force is a mark of the importance of the Tangiwai site for all New Zealanders. The care being taken of this site, and the memorials within it, will ensure New Zealanders will never forget the place of Tangiwai in our nation’s history,” Ms Barry says.