Women crewing waka as part of the Rugby World Cup opening celebrations in Auckland on Friday night were physically abused, and some needed hospital treatment, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples says.

On Saturday, Dr Sharples attended an urgent hui over the incident - the latest debacle from an opening that was fraught with disasters.

At least 2000 people missed the opening ceremony at Eden Park because of train delays, and people were crushed at Auckland's Queens Wharf when more than 200,000 people poured into downtown the area for the celebrations.

Dr Sharples said the waka crews were physically and verbally abused as they made their way through the crowds at Queens Wharf.


"Several of their women were taken to hospital, others still appeared battered and bruised and visibly distressed when they spoke to me about the way in which they were treated," he said.

"Some cried as they recounted the terrifying impact of the overcrowding; others were plain angry that the situation had got so out of hand.

"I am ashamed to learn that here were women being hit in a public space; they called out to the police; bystanders stood by and watched and yet no one came to help."

The groups had travelled to Auckland to join the waka fleet which signalled the opening of the RWC and the sight of the waka entering Auckland was "acknowledged around the world as one of the highlights of the day", Dr Sharples said.

"I am only sorry that the paddlers on those waka did not receive the respect they deserved."

Better preparation was needed to ensure public safety and security and Dr Sharples planned to write to RWC Minister Murray McCully and Auckland Mayor Len Brown urging them to make it a priority.

"We need to be satisfied from Government and the council alike that such dangerous overcrowding will be addressed and that appropriate controls to manage crowd behaviour will be instigated before the next large event takes place," he said.

It has emerged that cup organisers had been expecting a crowd of up to 150,000 at the waterfront for weeks when they were publicly talking about a crowd of 50,000.


Despite the burgeoning projections, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) kept encouraging people to attend the "biggest party Auckland has ever seen" and last week refused to discuss contingency plans for more than 50,000 people.

The debacle is being reviewed but that is being conducted by the same people responsible for planning it.

Auckland Transport chairman Mark Ford and chief executive David Warburton are reviewing their agency's role with the trains, while ATEED chief executive Michael Redman is overseeing a report for councillors into the problems with events on the waterfront that his staff had been planning for four years.