Traditional navigators land in Kāwhia from Bay of Islands to spread their knowledge

By Peata Melbourne

Navigators arrived in Kāwhia today aboard Hinemoana via Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) to host wānanga on traditional Māori navigation over the next two days.

The vessel departed Auckland last week to Te Pēwhairangi where the team stayed over the weekend to host supporters of the Waka Ama Long Distance National Competitions held in Waitangi this year.

There they met up with two other waka hourua (double-hulled canoes), Tai Rāwhiti and Ngāhiraka Mai Tawhiti built by the late Hekenukumai (Hector) Busby before voyaging around Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) towards Kāwhia. Hinemoana landed today and is expecting the other two crews to arrive tomorrow.

“More than 30 people are involved in traditional Māori navigation and, around the Pacific, each island has its experts – but the intention here is to get more of the iwi involved,” navigator Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr says.

As one of this country’s most experienced and skilled navigators, Barclay-Kerr learned to paddle outrigger canoes in Hawaii some 40 years ago. He has helped revive ocean-voyaging canoes around the Pacific and has helped increase the number of people involved in the waka ama sport.

Jack Thatcher and Stan Conrad have initiated programmes to teach more enthusiasts and navigators like Piripi Smith in Kahungunu have emerged due to the increase in interest.

But the misconception that traditional navigation is irrelevant in this day and age is an idea Barclay-Kerr rejects.

“Navigation has more benefits than just physical ones; it's the well-being of the mind, spirit, and heart. Thes are the kind of things that intertwine us with our ancestors who paved the way for everyone, including our youth, to excel in the world, so there is still a lot of work to do."