Waka set to star again

By Mike Barrington

The giant waka taua Ngatokimatawhaorua, built for the Treaty of Waitangi centenary in 1940, is to again team up with its little Ngapuhi cousin with the same name which was constructed for the same reason.
The 30m Big Ngatokimatawhaorua is the pride of the waka fleet during annual Treaty commemorations at Waitangi, where it is kept in a canoe house at Hobson's Beach.
The 16m Little Ngatokimatawhaorua hasn't been in the water since it was launched at Waitangi in 1940. It lay exposed to the weather at Otiria, near Moerewa, until about 1960, when it was stored in a shed at Pukerata Marae at Otaua,  south-west of Kaikohe.
But the cobwebs were recently dusted off Little Ngatokimatawhaorua when it was put on a special trailer at Otaua and taken to Aurere at the southern end of Tokerau Beach on Doubtless Bay where waka rangatira Hekenukumai Busby is supervising its restoration.
And when the 170th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty is commemorated at Waitangi on February 6 next year, it  will lead the flotilla of 28 waka - including Big Ngatokimatawhaorua.
Six days later, Little Ngatokimatawhaorua will also take part in a commemoration at Mangungu of Hokianga chiefs signing the Treaty. The historic waka will then return to Otaua.
Construction of Big Ngatokimatawhaorua was promoted by the Northern Maori MP from 1914-38, Taurekareka Henare, and Sir Apirana Ngata. They got Waikato princess Te Puea Herangi to bring master carver Piri Poutapu north to work on the waka.
Little Ngatokimatawhaorua was built from a single tree taken from the Russell State Forest at Ngaiotonga in 1936. It was designed by Toki Pangari and carved by Ree Kauere.
Mr Busby said he had first thought Little Ngatokimatawhaorua was totara, but when repairs started he had discovered it was kauri.
"It had a fair bit of dry rot in the gunnels, but we have cut that out and glued in bits of kauri," Mr Busby said.
 The restoration of Little Ngatokimatawhaorua has sparked huge interest in the Ngapuhi move to build a waka for the Treaty celebrations  before the parliamentary push brought Waikato into the picture.
A ceremony led by Tau Kopa took place before the waka was moved from Otaua, and the Otaua people and their waka received a spirited reception from Ngati Kahu when they stopped at the Kauhanga Marae at Peria on their way to Aurere.
Ngapuhi from Otaua and other areas have been helping with the restoration and training as paddlers for the waka's historic return to the Treaty stage at Waitangi after a 70-year absence.

- Northern Advocate

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