Master navigator and waka builder Sir Hekenukumai Puhipi says a $4.6 million grant for the Kupe Waka Centre will enable the creation of jobs and on-going support for the revival of waka building, sailing and traditional wayfinding.

Last week Tourism Minister and Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis dished out $8.2 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for five Far North projects - including $4.6m for Sir Hek's Kupe Waka Centre, to be built in Aurere at the southern end of Doubtless Bay.

Sir Hek said the grant will enable two things which are "equally important".

"First it will ensure that the revival of waka building, waka sailing and traditional wayfinding - which began at Aurere in 1985 - has on-going financial support.

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"Second, we will create jobs and a wide range of opportunities for the community to be
involved in kaupapa waka and the developments at Aurere," he said.

While the main focus of the centre is on education and training in all aspects of waka, the grant will help develop the centre as an international-standard cultural tourism attraction.

This tourism side will provide income to support the education and training
programmes as well as waka building, paddling and sailing.

"One of our priorities is to ensure that every primary school-aged child in Northland gets
the chance to visit the centre at no charge for entry," Sir Hek said.

"This will build on the good relations we already have with a number of kura and local schools."

The Kupe Waka Centre already has an outdoor star compass, which is used in teaching
celestial navigation; a near complete whare wananga; and a carving school.

"The PGF grant will enable us to add to these facilities, including building a planetarium.
We will use video and a star dome to introduce visitors to our ocean voyaging - voyages
as far as Hawaii and Rapanui (Easter Island) - done without any modern navigation
equipment."

Sir Hekenukumai and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern exchange smiles during the master waka builder's investiture ceremony in Waitangi this year. Photo/Peter de Graaf
Sir Hekenukumai and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern exchange smiles during the master waka builder's investiture ceremony in Waitangi this year. Photo/Peter de Graaf

The grant will also be used to improve access to the site, build the entry-exit-shop
building, and to build another space which will be used for a range of activities - including as an art gallery from time to time.

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"We will also build a raised garden, so we can show visitors planting by the moon and
discuss other aspects of Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar).

"We have funds to use in an environmental restoration programme starting with a small pond and wetland on the site and establish a small nursery there, working in collaboration with an existing nursery in the area," Sir Hek said.

The centre intends to have soft opening in early 2020.

As well as employing full time staff, the centre intends to provide opportunities for young people who are not employed or in education and training, and for community volunteers to gain experience of kaupapa waka.