Big waka fleet for Waitangi

By Peter de Graaf

The waka pageant will once again be one of the highlights of Waitangi Day. Photo / John Stone
The waka pageant will once again be one of the highlights of Waitangi Day. Photo / John Stone

Visitors to Waitangi Day celebrations this Saturday can expect an even bigger spectacle on the water than last year's 175th anniversary.

Kawakawa man Robert Gabel, chairman of Nga Waka Federation, expects up to 14 waka to converge on Waitangi this year.

The Northland fleet will be joined by waka from Whakatane, Tainui and Tauranga.

Also taking part will be five paddlers from the Njord Royal Rowing Club in the Netherlands, part of an ongoing exchange with the Dutch city of Leiden, and a dozen native Americans. Representatives of the Suquamish tribe of northwestern US are already in Waitangi while members of a north Californian tribe were due to arrive today.

Mr Gabel said the main event would occur about 9am on Waitangi Day when the waka fleet will leave Haruru Falls, paddle under the Waitangi Bridge and land at Tii Beach for a mass haka.

"It's an opportunity for our young people who've been waiting all year to show their skills and let the public see what they've learnt, as well as sharing with other cultures."

A student from the University of Amsterdam is travelling to Waitangi as part of her study of the relationship which began in 2011 when Northland master waka builder Hekenukumai Busby built a ceremonial waka for the Dutch national ethnology museum.

- Northern Advocate

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