Ōpōtiki youth to work with America's Cup boat builders

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Some Te Whakatōhea youth will soon learn to build an ocean vessel with the builders of New Zealand's Black Magic who won the America's Cup in 1995. McMullen and Wing have partnered with Whakatōhea Iwi and Whakatōhea Mussels to build the vessel in an effort to create employment for the region and its young people.

Plans for a new innovative vessel have got the iwi excited.

Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board CEO, Robert Edwards says, "“All our lands have been confiscated, we are depleted of land at that moment. But although the land has been taken, we've looked beyond to the sea. Using that resource is where our people can flourish."

McMullen and Wing McMully will build a new $3.2mil customised vessel for the mussel farming business, Whakatōhea Mussels.

McMullen and Wing CEO, Michael Eaglen says, “We've got a real deep respect for Whakatōhea Mussels and what Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board are doing in bringing on their people in their area and we've watched the way the community is deeply involved in what Whakatōhea Mussels is doing."

Whakatohea Mussels was established in 2014. It covers 6, 800 hectares of sea, 8km from the Ōpōtiki coastline. Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board owns 54 percent of the water space and the remainder are owned by the community.

“With the marine farm performing as well as it has been,” said Whakatohea Mussels CE, Peter Vitasovich, “our tonnage is growing, increasing, it's time we need another boat to support the growth.”

Six youth, aged 16 to 18years-old, will be trained in metal work and construction skills. These can immediately apply to the building of the marine farming vessel for Whakatohea Mussels.

“The dream is for our youth to get jobs and the youth who live whether they are Pākehā or Māori,” said Edwards.

Vitasovich said, “If we can train the young people and get involved in building this new boat. One day we want them back here to actually repair and do work on these boats.”

Recruitment has begun. The vessel is expected to be completed mid-September next year.