New and old waka celebrate Waitangi

By Edward Gay

A crew of paddlers board the waka Ngatokimatawhaorua at Waitangi today to take part in a Waka Karakia - its blessing. Photo / NZPA
A crew of paddlers board the waka Ngatokimatawhaorua at Waitangi today to take part in a Waka Karakia - its blessing. Photo / NZPA

Waka from around the country lined up along the beach at Waitangi before being ceremonially launched this morning.

Crowds gathered on the beach to see them off, photographing and
filming them on their cell phones.

Maori wardens kept the crowds out of the way as the paddlers lifted
each waka to the shore line.

One of the waka on the water today was launched for the first time yesterday and went like a "helicopter".

Organiser Robert Gabel, whose son is the captain, said he was "really rapt" with the waka.

The waka had a new crew and was built in Aurere in the Far North by Heke Nuku Mai Puhipi.

"It was finished about a week ago and put in the water for the very first time yesterday," Mr Gabel said.

Yesterday, it was blessed by a kaumatua from Ngati Awa.

"We believe the depth of the blessing meant the waka took to the water so readily."

The 1.5 tonne waka toa - named Whakaangi - was carried down to the water by 20 paddlers.

Its front carving, the tau ihu, is of Ngati Kahu design which predates European contact.

Mr Gabel said it was carved from a drawing Sir Graham Latimer made after finding the design in Germany.

Another one of the waka – Ngatokimatawhaorua – has just turned 70 years old.

Tainui's Princess Te Puea commissioned the waka for the 1940
centennial commemorations.

The 37 metre long waka cut through the water as it made its way around
the bay towards the Treaty grounds.

Many of the waka were welcomed onto the water by a karanga and a blow
on a conch shell.

By lunchtime, a cloud of gunpowder smoke hung over the treaty grounds as the Navy fired a 21-gun salute.

A large crowd of spectators gathered to watch, with vibrations from the aftershocks reverberating through the ground and up through their bodies.

The guns are saluting guns and do not belong to any ship.

However, two Navy ships are moored in the bay below - the inshore vessel HMNZS Taupo and the new HMNZS Canterbury.

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