Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Waka joins 1000 vessels for Jubilee

The crew practised on the Thames before today's big outing. Photo / Toi Maori
The crew practised on the Thames before today's big outing. Photo / Toi Maori

A team of young waka paddlers proudly represented New Zealand from across the world as they made their way down the River Thames in London during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

As one of more than 1000 vessels to take part in the flotilla for the celebrations, Te Hono Ki Aotearoa was one of three craft from NZ that took part in the four-hour procession.

The others were a whaling boat and a clinker-built boat.

Captain Chapman Harrison, who led the 14-strong waka crew, said each of his "boys" was proud to take part in the special occasion.

"First, I am so proud to be Maori, and proud to be a Kiwi from Aotearoa.

"It's about honouring the Queen and acknowledging our partnership through the Treaty."

The Kaitaia resident, whose first role in a waka was as a 7-year-old bailer, said his team had trained extensively for the event. "We've been running a lot and training."

Before the crew left for London, they also trained on the Waikato River in a replica waka, which was carved from the same 800-year-old tree as Te Hono Ki Aotearoa.

Participating in the London celebrations was a fantastic achievement for the crew, who were almost not included in the flotilla.

Crew member Joe Harawira told the Herald the New Zealand Government was forced to step in and help after safety concerns were raised about their waka by the Thames Pageant organisers.

"The organisers of the Thames Pageant had safety concerns about a non-motorised, single-hull support vessel sharing the London river with over 1000 other vessels in a flotilla.

"We were initially told we couldn't take part in the event but with Government intervention and support, we were eventually given the green light."

- NZ Herald

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