A celebration of the majestic Whanganui River continues next month during the annual Raukotahi Waka Ama Marae Challenge.

Traditionally based near the Wanganui Motor Boat Club slipway on the eastern banks of the river, this year the event will move downriver and be based adjacent to Kowhai Park.

The move will mean the closure of what is known as Lower Kowhai Park Rd immediately adjacent to the river between 7.45am and 5pm on Saturday, March 7 to accommodate the large number of competitors and spectators anticipated.

Organiser Seletar Taputoro said the Raukotahi Waka Ama Marae Challenge had become an annual event on all marae calendar that allowed uri (descendants) of Te Awa o Whanganui to come together and celebrate our awa, our Whanganuitanga and our competitive nature all in one day.

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The banks of the Whanganui River become a transition point for waka racing during the annual Raukotahi Waka Ama Marae Challenge.
The banks of the Whanganui River become a transition point for waka racing during the annual Raukotahi Waka Ama Marae Challenge.

"Waka ama is only a vessel to unite our iwi and anyone can participate regardless of experience, age, fitness level, or size, Taputoro said.

"Bringing uri home to represent our whanau, marae, hapu and iwi and parading the banks of Te Awa Tupua with a rainbow of coloured T-shirts is one of the highlights of the day."

Taputoro said registrations opened on Wednesday and organisers were hoping to repeat the success of 2018 when 18 marae came forward and more than 600 participants aged 6 to 83 made it an all inclusive event.

Racing is scheduled to start from 8.30am and run until 4.30pm.

The waka heading upstream during a previous Raukotahi Waka Ama Marae Challenge on the Whanganui River.
The waka heading upstream during a previous Raukotahi Waka Ama Marae Challenge on the Whanganui River.

"We will have two support craft on the awa and four waka racing at any one time. We will endeavour to stay close to the Kowhai Park side of the river so we can all enjoy the atmosphere and to ensure our paddlers and fellow river users are safe."

Taputoro said the term "Raukotahi" stemmed from the way in which elders remind the youth of the next generation of who, and what, contributes to their make-up – and in this way: haramai /haere atu koe i to Raukotahi - kei muri i a koe, kei mua i a koe , kei o taha to Rarangi Matua. Come and go not as a singular identity but as one who is a culmination of all those who were before you, all those that stand at your side and all those who will follow after you.