By Tumamao Harawira of Maori Television
Waka Ama NZ has made the "very difficult" decision that the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Waka Ama Sprint Nationals will be cancelled for 2022.
With nearly 3500 paddlers from 66 clubs throughout New Zealand, it rivals Te Matatini in terms of participation. Waka Ama NZ chief executive Lara Collins says this was a big call to cancel the nationals.
"I guess we are feeling a little bit of grief at the moment because it's the first time that event's been cancelled in over 32 years."
"I am really concerned about under 12s. The number of tamariki that we have at the event would likely get around 1500 tamariki taking part in the event"
Waka Ama NZ Board chair Zalene Douglas says "In making the decision to cancel the 2022 Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Waka Ama Sprint Nationals, the board of Waka Ama New Zealand was of the firm view that we could not put at risk any of our Waka Ama whānau".
'Impossible to fight'
According to board member Tūranga Barclay-Kerr, organisers were worried about the impact of a Covid outbreak at nationals.
"It would be impossible to fight this pandemic if it got into our communities back home."
"The main thing is the health and wellbeing of the people."
The Sprint Nationals was set as the World Sprints qualifying event for the IVF Va'a World Sprints being held in August 2022 in London. More information will be released regarding a qualifying process for the Aotearoa NZ paddlers and clubs.
Waka Ama NZ also plans to provide opportunities online for clubs around the country to meet and share experiences over the coming months.