Up to 1000 kaihoe (paddlers) will help mark the 80th birthday of the great waka Ngātokimatawhaorua at Waitangi this year.
Kaihautu (captain) Joe Conrad, of Kaitaia, said at least 800 kaihoe, and possibly as many as 1000, were expected to take part in a five-day waka training camp at Haruru Falls starting on February 1.
The paddlers would stay at ''Tent City'' on Bledisloe Domain, an annual tradition which dated back almost 50 years.
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As well as Ngāpuhi, those taking part would come from Ngāti Awa (in the eastern Bay of Plenty), Tuwharetoa (central North Island) and Te Arawa (Rotorua).
They would be joined by international manuhiri (guests) including 15 First Nations paddlers of the Suquamish people and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, both in the northwestern USA, and 10 Dutch paddlers from the Njord Royal Student Rowing Club's waka group in Leiden.
A group of six First Nations paddlers arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday with the rest due in coming days.
Conrad expected 14 waka would take to the water on Waitangi Day along with voyaging canoes from Tauranga Moana and possibly Auckland and Ngati Kahungunu (Hawke's Bay).
A number of events were planned to mark the 80th anniversary of Ngātokimatawhaorua, some of which were highly significant and still under wraps.
From 2-4pm on February 4 a kawe mate (ceremony to remember the dead) would be held at Tent City for the late Sir Hekenukumai Busby, who is credited with reviving Māori ocean voyaging and celestial navigation.
Kaihoe would also take part in an event honouring Dame Whina Cooper at Panguru on February 3, and the opening of a new 28th Māori Battalion Museum at Waitangi on February 5.
On February 6 the waka would be paddled down Waitangi River and land on the beach in front of Te Tii Marae for karakia and a mass haka by several hundred paddlers. The timing will depend on the tide.
Conrad said his involvement with Ngātokimatawhaorua had begun in 1974 when his father Miki Conrad was kaihautu.
He had now captained the waka for more than 30 years and it was time to start ''handing over the reins'' to a younger generation.
Since then kaupapa waka had gone global with Māori canoes in Hawaii, Holland and the USA.
His aim now was to work out how Ngātokimatawhaorua could be harnessed to help youth and spread environmental messages.
Ngātokimatawhaorua was built to mark the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1940.
The job of carving the waka from three kauri trunks started in 1934; a team of 24 bullocks and many men took three weeks to haul the hull's centre section out of the forest.
The waka is 37.5 metres long, requires at least 76 paddlers and can seat up to 120. It is lashed with more than 1km of rope and weighs 6 tonnes when dry and 12 tonnes when saturated.
After Waitangi Day commemorations in 1940 it was laid up next to the Whare Rūnanga (carved meeting house) for more than 30 years.
Its restoration was completed in 1974, the same year a dedicated waka shelter was built at Hobson's Bay.
It is named after Matawhaorua, the waka on which Kupe sailed to Aotearoa. His grandson Nukutawhiti re-adzed the canoe before his own journey to New Zealand, hence the addition of ''ngā toki'' (the adzes) to its name.