The Netherlands embassy is planning a series of events around the country, starting next month at Waitangi, to mark the 10th anniversary of a unique waka project linking Māori and the Dutch city of Leiden.

In 2010 Northland's late tohunga waka Sir Hekenukumai Busby carved a waka for the Dutch national ethnology museum, Museum Volkenkunde, which was handed over in a canal-side ceremony later that year attended by thousands, including members of the Dutch royal family.

The waka, which Sir Hek called Te Hono ki Aotearoa (The Link to New Zealand), was designed for Dutch conditions with a lowered sternpost to fit under low bridges and the ability to turn in tight spaces.

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Tohunga waka Sir Hekenukumai Busby hongis Te Hono ki Aotearoa, then his 27th waka, before its launch at Aurere in Doubtless Bay in 2010. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Tohunga waka Sir Hekenukumai Busby hongis Te Hono ki Aotearoa, then his 27th waka, before its launch at Aurere in Doubtless Bay in 2010. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Students from Leiden University's Njord Royal Student Rowing Club have been trained in waka protocols so they can paddle Te Hono at ceremonial events around Europe.

Although on permanent loan to the museum the waka remains the property of arts organisation Toi Māori and is subject to a number of conditions, including that some of the Dutch students travel to Waitangi every year to refresh their skills.

With the project now celebrating its 10th year the Dutch embassy is organising events in Waitangi, Wellington and Golden Bay.

Each event will include a screening of the documentary Te Hono ki Aotearoa, directed by Jan Bieringa, and a panel discussion focussing on the project's future course.

Guests at the Waitangi event, on the evening of February 4, will include Dutch ambassador Mira Woldberg, MPs, iwi and Dutch community representatives.

Panel members will include Robert Gabel of Kawakawa (Ngā Waka o Te Taitokerau chairman), Steven Engelsman (former Volkenkunde Museum director), Tamahou Temara (Toi Māori operations manager) and Alex Miesen (Dutch waka crew member).

Te Hono ki Aotearoa is put through its paces on the Awapoko River, Aurere, before it was shipped to Europe. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Te Hono ki Aotearoa is put through its paces on the Awapoko River, Aurere, before it was shipped to Europe. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Linda Luong, senior public affairs officer at the Netherlands Embassy, said the event aimed to ''raise awareness and understanding of how the waka provides a living connection between the Dutch and Māori''.

It would also lead in to a Māori weekend being planned at the Leiden museum in May.

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As part of the 10th anniversary celebrations a larger than usual contingent of 10 Dutch paddlers will travel to New Zealand this year to take part in Waitangi Day festivities.

They will attend a waka training camp near Haruru Falls and the February 6 waka pageant, which will mark the 80th birthday of the great waka Ngātokimatawhaorua.

Indigenous paddlers from North America are also expected to take part.

The Dutch waka group will include founder member Peer van der List, who travelled to New Zealand for Sir Hek's tangi last year, and current captain Fabian d'Angremont. Alex Miesen, another long-time member, won a grant from the Dutch government which pays for one paddler to travel to Waitangi each year.

Other events marking Te Hono's 10th anniversary will take place in Wellington's National Library on February 11 and in Takaka on February 18. Golden Bay is hosting one of the events because it was where Dutch explorer Abel Tasman dropped anchor in 1642.