100-Year Old Tragedy of 499 Lost Miners Premieres on Māori Television


Monday November 10, 2014


The story of 499 Chinese miners whose bodies were lost in a shipwreck in Northland more than 100 years ago is explored in a new documentary screening on Māori Television on Monday, November 17 at 9:30pm.

THE LOST VOYAGE OF 499 tells the story of the SS Ventnor, which left Wellington on October 26 1902 on a mission to return the bodies of 499 Chinese gold miners to their birthplace in Guangdong, China.

The ill-fated ship tragically sank 10 miles off the coast of Hokianga.

The contemporary story is that of Duncan and Peter Sew Hoy, descendants of Choie Sew Hoy - one of the first and greatest Chinese pioneers in New Zealand - whose remains were aboard the ship.

Executive Producer Alan Hall, of Natural History New Zealand (NHNZ), says the documentary follows Duncan and Peter’s journey to discover Choie’s legacy in Dunedin and the history behind the voyage of the SS Ventnor.

They, along with other Chinese descendants of the 499, travel to Hokianga where they meet people of the Te Roroa and Te Rarawa tribes, whose ancestors took it upon themselves to becomes guardians of the souls of the miners and bury remains that washed ashore on their own sacred land.

“We follow the Sew Hoys’ emotional journey to lay to rest the spirit of their ancestor and film 80-year-old Duncan’s determination to complete the voyage home to Guangzhao that his ancestor, Choie Sew Hoy, never got to complete.”

NHNZ managing director Kyle Murdoch says: “We are extremely privileged to tell a story that happened in our own backyard. 

“As we unravel the mystery of one of New Zealand’s most notorious shipwrecks, we reveal that the Chinese and Māori share strong cultural beliefs, and ultimately that’s important for bringing our two nations closer together.”

THE LOST VOYAGE OF 499 is a co-production between Natural History New Zealand Ltd, China Intercontinental Communications Centre and China Central Television.

It was made with the support of the New Zealand Government’s Screen Production Grant, Māori Tourism and NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


For interviews, images or further information contact:

Lauren Mentjox
Kaiwhakaputa Matua
Senior Publicist
Māori Television

DDI         +64 9 539 7108