Million-dollar waka a 'floating classroom' for Tairawhiti

By Talisa Kupenga

A twin-hulled voyaging canoe being built as a floating classroom for East Coast children has been blessed for its next stage of development. Tairawhiti Voyaging Trust has raised more than a $1million dollars for the waka which will also be named Tairawhiti.

It was a blessing like that of Te Aurere waka for this future East Coast classroom.

Chief Executive of Tairawhiti Voyaging Trust and Project Director Te Aturangi Nepia-Clamp says it will be a unique learning experience for children.

"The kids are going to get a sense of learning of who their ancestors were, the type of vessel that their ancestors sailed on, feeling pride in knowing that and being given the opportunity to actually venture out on to the water and actually experience what their ancestors experienced in a small way."

The classroom will involve East Coast schools and be open to children of all ages and ethnicities. Tairawhiti waka will also journey up the coast so no one misses out.

"Starting from those very little ones who will stay in the port to the ones who will actually get to sail out into the bay; engrained in our education programme, our curriculum that we're developing will be all the core subjects that they're being taught at present. But they will be taught in a way that the kids won't even know they're learning,” Nepia-Clamp says.

Tairawhiti will be similar to double-hulled canoes Haunui and Te Matau a Maui. Navigation and waka construction expert Hekenukumai “Hector” Busby says it's an exciting project.

"I wish nothing but the best for the project so it's completed in time for the enjoyment of the children on the East Coast."

It's expected the waka will be complete come October, then Tairawhiti will make its journey home.