30 year wait over for wāhine paddlers

By Regan Paranihi

For the first time in nearly 30 years, women paddled on the prestigious Ngātokimatawhaorua.

The wāhine were cloaked in korowai as they approached the waka. For some, it was a thirty-year-long paddle down memory lane.

“1990 was when I first went on Ngātoki, along with my friend. There was 10 of us chosen, we are the remaining two,” Karen Williams says, one of the 12 women who took to the water today.

When the ancestral canoe landed in Hokianga years ago it was also paddled by women.

“Back in 1940, they actually rode Ngātokimatawhaorua. In '74 Uncle Nikki and them had another lot of wāhine go on there and in '83, which is Elsie behind us, she went on with Princess Diana," she says.

"So it’s keeping it going and hoping in 20 years’ time when Ngātoki turns 100, if we're not there, our daughters will be there.”

For many of these wāhine, today's experience was one they had only ever dreamed of.

Wamirirangi Conrad says, “I grew up with these kaihoe paddling on Ngātoki and I have always seen them from afar.

"But to sit on Ngātoki and experience the mana, the power that it holds, and just being able to sit below my father and have my mother and sister on board is awesome."