A cancelled waka ama regatta was turned into a vaccination event where a whole whānau got jabs in Kerikeri.
The Pearl of the North, held annually on Labour Day, is the biggest waka ama regatta in Northland.
The waka ama community planned to use the Pearl of the North to promote vaccination, but when the event was cancelled due to Covid alert level restrictions, a new opportunity arose.
Northland waka ama national champion Daniel Kaiawe said the idea for the event came from some light-hearted jokes about vaccination.
"We had been joking about getting Pearl Jam T-shirts, and someone said they should say Pearl Jab."
The event came together in less than a week as they secured support from Te Runanga o Whaingaroa and Maranga Mai Ngā Wātene Māori, who provided a mobile vaccination unit that is used to reach out to rural and interest communities.
Kaiawe spread the word on social media, posting pictures of the brightly coloured, limited edition 'Pearl Jab' T-shirts.
In a Facebook post Kaiawe wrote, 'So love or hate me, whanau I encourage you to come along and participate in waka ama and if ya unvaxxed , extend your arms to the pointed end of a vaccination needle, all in keeping our whakapapa safe.'
The Fat Oyster Academy, a waka ama training academy for at-risk youth, presented the event alongside waka ama club, Kaihoe o Ngāti Rēhia Trust.
Fat Oyster Academy committee member Casey Gannon, who helped organise the event, says they turned the disappointing cancellation into something positive.
"It was electric, it was fun. Look, there was a bit of rain in the morning and that didn't slow us down at all."
"People from all over, all ages and all stages. It was just a real special day."
Twelve people got vaccinated at the Lake Manuwai event while the waka ama paddlers trained, including a family of four who got their first vaccinations.
"If you're thinking about a village of about 100 people, to have 12 (get vaccinated), it's massive."
A limited edition 'Pearl Jab' T-shirt was given to those who were vaccinated on the day, as well as a gift from a local Māori business and free kai.
Gannon says encouragement from community-led organisations is the key to getting harder to reach communities vaccinated.
"I think that it's helpful for whānau to learn about vaccination through somebody that they trust. I think when they're just watching updates on the news or hearing something from the Prime Minister, it doesn't reach home to them."
"Since we put out the word that our club is a double vax mandatory club, there was one family that was totally against vaccination, that did end up getting vaccinated."
As of yesterday, 3813 more people need to be vaccinated in Northland for the region to reach 90 per cent with at least one dose.
"Because we've been so lucky up north to not have so many cases ... we're trying not to learn the hard way," says Gannon.
• There were no new Covid 19 cases in Northland yesterday.