Newsletter – Issue 2, May 2017

Two rescue services were founded in direct response to the Wahine Disaster. Wahine 50 Trust Chair Lieutenant General (Retired) Rhys Jones (right) stand in Wahine Memorial Park by Wellington Harbour, flanked by Life Flight’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter and the WGC’s Spirit of Wellington.

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2017.

Last month was of great significance for many, being the 49th anniversary of the Wahine disaster on the 10 April, followed by Anzac Day.

This Wahine Day, I was privileged to meet some of you over a cup of tea after the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Wellington Museum. I continue to be surprised at just how diverse your connections to the Wahine are.

The Wahine disaster – a catalyst for change

The Wahine disaster was a catalyst for change. It led to improved safety procedures on ships and the creation of two significant rescue services – Wellington Volunteer Coastguard and the Life Flight Trust. Both services were started by volunteers determined that such a tragic loss of life should not happen again. They are keen to be involved in next year’s 50th Wahine Day commemorations. Read more in our media release.


Cyclone Cook deemed a match for 1968’s Cyclone Giselle

April was also marked by its wild weather, particularly in the lead up to Easter weekend. Forecasts by the NZ Metservice comparing Cyclone Cook to Cyclone Giselle – which contributed to the demise of the Wahine and led to the instigation of mandatory civil defence plans by local councils– may have brought back memories for some.
Many of the news media picked up on this connection and the Wahine tragedy.

In some parts of the country, the storm was as bad as predicted, and locals will have valued hearing and heeding the warnings and advice given. Others will have been relieved that their regions were relatively untouched. But the event was a stark reminder of New Zealand’s vulnerability to the vagaries of nature and the importance of being vigilant and prepared.


How to reduce the likelihood of a disaster – be prepared and ready to help!

We have been talking with the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Maritime NZ, Coastguard NZ, and the Life Flight Trust about how best to prepare for or reduce the likelihood of a disaster in future. Two themes are common across all agencies – be prepared and be ready to help others within the limits of your capacity.

In practice that means:

Be prepared
•    have earthquake emergency kits
•    install and check fire alarms
•    wear life-jackets at sea
•    carry locator beacons when tramping
•    let people know what you are doing.

Be ready to help others within the limits of your capability

•    go on first-aid courses
•    check that your neighbours are safe after an earthquake
•    let emergency services know if you see someone in trouble
•    know who to contact if you have a boat or helicopter that can respond to an emergency
•    volunteer for emergency response organisations such as Coastguard NZ or NZ Search and Rescue.


A steely resolve to remember the Wahine  

The fate of the Wahine was highlighted  in a recent media statement by the Scrap Metal Recycling Assocation of NZ, timed to coincide with Wahine Day. Plans to refloat and scupper the 9844-tonne ferry in the Cook Strait after the disaster were stymied when a fierce storm in May 1969 tore the ship into three parts.

It took more than five years to salvage the wreckage, with the parts removed from Wellington harbour using the floating crane Hikitia, taken to a scrap yard in Lower Hutt, and then freighted to Auckland for recycling in the Glenbrook steel mill. The ship’s scrap value of $4.5 million in 1973 paled in comparison to the salvage costs.


Register your interest in the 50th Wahine Day commemorations on 10 April 2018

The Wahine 50 Charitable Trust is working with the Hutt City and Wellington City councils and others to plan and deliver a day of commemorative events for the 50th anniversary of Wahine Day. These plans include:

  • a dawn service at Eastbourne
  • a midday event on Wellington’s waterfront
  • a reunion lunch for survivors, rescuers, and family members of those on board
  • an afternoon visit to the Wahine memorials at Seatoun followed by afternoon tea.
  • filmed interviews with some of the survivors, rescuers, and families of those involved in the Wahine disaster.


I look forward to meeting many of you at next year’s 50th commemorations in Wellington on 10 April 2018.

Please visit for more details
and register your interest in attending at

Best wishes,

Rhys Jones
Lieutenant General (Retired)
Chair, The Wahine 50 Trust