Chinese goldminers' relatives say their ancestors have not been respected after remains filmed

Relatives of the Chinese goldminers whose remains were found in a Northland shipwreck say they're deeply disturbed by the lack of respect shown to their ancestors.

Last month the Project Ventnor team, led by John Albert, discovered remains while filming a documentary about the sunken ship, the SS Ventnor.

Jenny Sew Hoy Agnew, the great-great-granddaughter of a prominent goldminer whose body was onboard, says the area is a gravesite, and her family are shocked they weren’t consulted.

“We think that he is being disrespectful of what is, virtually a grave site, and the fact that it’s in the sea and pretty inaccessible doesn’t lessen the lack of respect.”

Choie Sew Hoy was among those killed when the SS Ventnor sank off the Northland coast 118 years ago.

Ms Sew Hoy Agnew's reaction is echoed by relative Peter Sew Hoy.

“I just thought that it would be very respectful if actually, John had called a family member to let us know that he had found something, so at least we had some warning," she says. 

Peter Sew Hoy, who spoke with 1 NEWS, says the family was disappointed to find out that Mr Albert was filming.

But John Albert, who filmed the site with a robot camera, says no one touched the site.

“These guys made it quite plain when they were alive, that upon their death they would like to be returned home.”

Mr Sew Hoy disagrees, saying “it's not for somebody from outside to come, to film, to do what they want without letting us know out of respect.”

He says he’s “still in shock," describing the news as “a bolt of lightning out of the sky”.

“In a way it’s quite exciting, but we need time to think about the significance, the consequences, where to from here.”


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