Ngāti Awa leads karakia to commemorate lives lost in Whakaari eruption

By Jessica Tyson

Today marks one year since the Whakaari, White Island eruption that claimed the lives of 22 people.

To start the commemorations today, Ngāti Awa held a karakia or dawn ceremony at Te Hau o te Rangi, a reserve on the Whakatāne foreshore looking out towards White Island.

Tears were shed among the close to 200 people who attended the ceremony including iwi members, whānau pani (the relations of the deceased) and other members of the community.

Ngāti Awa kaumātua led the ceremony reciting prayers from the Hāhi Rangitū (Rangitū Church) while waiata were also sung to support each kaikōrero.

Among the crowd were former tour guides Kelsey Waghorn and Jake Milbank, who were New Zealand's only survivors of the eruption.

The 47 people on the island at the time of the eruption were 24 Australians, nine Americans, five New Zealanders, four Germans, two Chinese, two Britons and one Malaysian.

Māori Television will present a one and a half-hour broadcast from a commemoration service held at Mataatua Wharenui.

The service will be attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and whānau who lost loved ones during the eruption.