Big waka may dock in Tauranga CBD

By Ruth Keber

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The Waka Maori, while it was on the Auckland waterfront. Photo / File
The Waka Maori, while it was on the Auckland waterfront. Photo / File

A controversial waka could be headed to Tauranga.

Plans are under way for the 75-metre Waka Maori, which was built during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, to be brought to Tauranga's waterfront.

Project manager Sally Cooke said the plastic waka would be used to establish a cultural, technological and innovation showcase centre for the Bay of Plenty.

Mrs Cooke said it was an ambitious project, but one that had the potential to provide Tauranga city with a multi-purpose venue for events, shows, activities, meetings and cultural offerings.

The Waka Maori was built for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and cost taxpayers $2 million. It is currently housed in San Francisco after the latest America's Cup, where it was used to promote New Zealand business and tourism.

When the waka was built it came under fire from Labour associate Maori Affairs spokesman Shane Jones, who likened it to plastic kitchenware, dubbing it "tupper-waka".

Mrs Cooke said a feasibility study was now under way to determine the cost, how it would work and where it would be placed to put forward to Tauranga City Council.

She said she was looking for somewhere for the Gate Pa 150th commemoration exhibition to be housed when she rang Ngati Whatua Orakei in Auckland and realised the Waka Maori was potentially available.

"It's an award-winning innovation complex. Imagine tourists being able to visit a centre which showcases our culture, our heritage, our region and technology and innovation, all in one iconic venue which really needs no introduction. We don't have something that draws all that together in a place of pride, for both locals and tourists."

The venue could hold up to 210 people for a banquet seating event or 600 people as a venue, she said.

Tauranga city mayor Stuart Crosby said the Waka Maori could be a way to revitalise the central city. "We need more attractions for our visitors, especially our cruise ship visitors, no doubt the CBD in Tauranga needs a shake up, we all know that."

Pat Spellman, Tauranga Te Reo founder, said he saw the project playing a huge role in housing Tauranga heritage and history.

Waka Maori

• 16m high x 75m long.

• 500sq m of floor space.

• Can hold up to 600 people

- Bay of Plenty Times

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