Media release – Wahine 50 Commemoration

48th Wahine Day, 10 April 2016

Survivors of the Wellington Wahine disaster have formed a charitable trust to plan the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Wahine.

Chair of the Wahine 50 Charitable Trust, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones (Retired) today launched a Wahine 50 website – – to mark the 48th anniversary of the disaster. As well as outlining plans for the commemoration, the website will be a repository for sharing stories about personal experiences and how individual lives have been shaped by the disaster.

“Cyclone Giselle unleashed its full fury on Wellington but there was also a loss of life and serious injury in many parts of New Zealand on that day,” he says. “Whether you’re a survivor, a rescuer, or a person who played a support role in that crisis, we will be seeking to archive your story.”

“The Wahine – 50 Years On commemoration will also support Coastguard Wellington and Coastguard Mana in their fundraising initiatives to replace two rescue vessels working in this region, and we will soon be calling on the wider public to join us,” Lt Gen Jones says.

Coastguard Wellington was formed as a direct result of the Wahine Day storm in 1968, while Coastguard Mana was established some 30 years later in 1998. Their rescue vessels, based in Evans Bay and Mana, are now in urgent need of replacement.

“The proposed rescue craft will give our region vessels that are purpose-built to respond swiftly to marine emergencies in the often challenging conditions of the Cook Strait,” says Lt Gen Jones.

The Coastguard-replacement-vessels project is subject to feasibility, design and specification work.

Wahine 50 trustee, Rob Ewan, and members of his family were passengers on the stricken Wahine.
“The response from the people of this region on Wahine Day was simply tremendous,” he says. “We would like the Wahine – 50 Years On to be a day of commemoration for those who lost their lives, their families, and to acknowledge all who assisted on that day.”

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the Wahine memorial mast on Wellington’s waterfront is a lasting reminder of the worst disaster in recent maritime history and the council will work alongside the Trust in developing its commemorative plans.

Council is enhancing the playground, open spaces, and introducing a Chinese Garden into Frank Kitts Park. The memorial mast will be moved slightly north of its current location.

“The 50th commemorative event will be a lovely opportunity to re-dedicate the memorial mast,” she says. “We will remember those who lost their lives or loved ones, and the bravery of rescuers.”

The programme of events being planned includes a dawn service on the Pencarrow Coast, an exhibition, a public event to rededicate the Wahine memorial mast currently situated in Frank Kitts Park, and an event at Seatoun.

“Everyone visiting the waterfront knows the Hikitia crane and photographs taken just after the Wahine disaster show this vessel involved in the salvage operation,” says Wahine 50 Trust Chair Rhys Jones. “How wonderful would it be to have the replacement rescue vessels lifted into the water by the Hikitia as part of the commemoration.”