Team NZ and Ngāti Whātua's unique relationship

By Taroi Black

Hundreds of fans gathered at Auckland Airport to welcome home the America's Cup winners. Team New Zealand was also greeted with a traditional welcoming by local iwi Ngāti Whātua who are expected to play a major role in the team's welcome home parade tomorrow.

Paddlers from Tainui will be welcomed here to Ōrākei Marae to prepare alongside Ngāti Whātua for the welcome home parade for Team New Zealand. Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton made it clear to Ngāti Whātua that he wants Māori to be heavily involved in the welcoming ceremony. Dalton and Ngāti Whātua’s Alec Hawke have been friends for nearly 40 years.

Hawke says, “Grant being an Ōrākei boy, he and his wife used to stay in the hood and every now and then they used to come down while we're practising and offer a few little tips and Grant used to get on the outrigger with us and offer the kids some form of advice. Oh look it's been a long a fruitful relationship and it just hasn't happened overnight and during various kaumātua we had, I got passed the torch to carry it on so I've carried it on for the last 15 years.”

Their friendship has also contributed to a close relationship between Team New Zealand and Ngāti Whātua.

Dalton says, “Our relationship with Ngāti Whātua is strong and it has been for many, many years, and we support youth Māori sailing through the Akarana Club, trying to get Māori into our world and god knows they could be grinders.”

Grant Dalton was also involved in the establishment of the Ngāti Whātua waka ama outrigger club over 30 years ago.

Hawke says, “He did get in touch with us and seeing how pleased he is and wanted us to be involved and looking forward to coming home and he wanted to add that special touch - you know that we did it. We were so glad, and on behalf of all Māori we are so glad to accept that congratulation especially from him.”

Dalton says, “We had a pōwhiri in Dubai as well and I was only briefed on that before we came today and to have Alec as the first person I saw and the Challenge is fantastic.”

Team New Zealand will greet tens of thousands of fans through Auckland's CBD and the water's edge at 12:30pm.