Plan to move memorial ‘very disappointing’

A memorial monument near SH 1 Shag Point for Riley Baker who was killed by a tourist driver....
A memorial monument near SH 1 Shag Point for Riley Baker who was killed by a tourist driver. Photo: Gregor Richardson
NZ Transport Agency plans to move the memorial to Dunedin photographer Riley Baker from Katiki beach in North Otago are unfair, his sister Sarah Baker says.

Mr Baker (26) died after Chinese tourist Limin Ma crossed the centre line on State Highway 1 and crashed into Mr Baker’s oncoming motorcycle on August 13, 2016.

On what would have been Miss Baker’s brother’s 27th birthday, on January 13, 2017, about 40 people gathered for the unveiling of the memorial and seat below State Highway 1 beside the beach at a picnic spot near Shag Point. This Sunday, Miss Baker, of Oamaru,  again plans to celebrate her late brother’s birthday at the site.

In September 2017, after the memorial had stood for nine months without issue, the contractor that manages the land on behalf of the agency contacted Miss Baker to inform her it should not have been allowed and would have to be removed.

But after a show of community support, including an online petition, later that month, the Otago Daily Times reported it would remain in place — a "huge relief" for Miss Baker at the time.

However, in late December Miss Baker received a call from someone at the agency saying the memorial would soon be moved to an Oamaru cemetery.

"It’s very disappointing," Miss Baker said.

"We put so much work into it, and we’ve made so many memories there. I take my kids there all the time, they play on the beach, and they sit on the chair — picnics, barbecues — and it just seems like all that is being completely destroyed now.

"You try and move on after these horrible things happen, and every time something like this happens it just brings it all back all over again. And you just want to try your best to get on with your life.

"Let us try to move on — we’ve made so many happy memories there now."

An spokesman for NZ Transport Agency said in order to respect the family’s privacy the agency would not provide further details.

"The NZ Transport Agency and Riley’s family have agreed that the headstone will be relocated from the rest area to a cemetery in Oamaru," he said in a brief statement.

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