Traditional waka races take flight at Tāmaki Herengā Waka Festival

By Te Rina Kowhai

Waka tētē races at the Tāmaki Herengā Waka Festival brought together local Auckland tribes back onto the waters of Tāmaki Makaurau, revitalising history, culture and heritage.

Traditional waka races took flight in a prime location in the Viaduct Basin.

16 teams made up of local Auckland tribes, battled it out for the supreme title. Yet for some it was more than just a competition.

Namaka Barclay-Kerr, Tāmaki Herenga Waka Trust says, “The biggest thing for me coming to Auckland is to increase the voyaging on traditional canoes such as single hull canoes, people's canoes and outrigger canoes amongst Māori as well as the Pacific.”

Riki Minhinnick, Ngāti Te Ata says, “I've seen the spiritual connection a person can have with a canoe. Even with the young people, they have their own chants and talk, those sorts of things. They talk to the canoe and the canoe speaks back to them, I've seen it, I've heard it. So those types of spiritual elements is great to see in these traditional activities.”

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, Tamaki Herenga Waka Trust says, “This event allows tribes from Auckland to know who their relatives are, their friends and the local tribes. It's a day that brings us all together under one activity, a healthy one given to us by our ancestors.

Reaching their first semi-finals were Tamaoho and Ngāti Te Ata. With Ngāti Tamaoho falling short of making the finals.

Ted Ngātaki, Ngāti Tamaoho says, “I'm exhausted. This event though supports our children to go onto the sea that flows, to help protect traditions like this.”

Paddling into the secone semi-finals were Te Pou Herenga Waka and Tāmaki Herenga Trust. Te Pou Herenga Waka just losing out, but were glad to be a part of the event.

Modesty Wells, Te Pou Herenga Waka says, “Oh we did well today ay? We haven't had much training in this type of waka so we use to the waka ama our six-man waka so this is quite a new challenge for us, but I think we did awesome. We had a big week last week away at the sprint nationals. Just coming back together as a club and just being with each other it’s been really well.”

Ngāti Te Ata and Tāmaki Herenga Waka went head-to-head in the finals side-by-side from start to finish. But it was Tāmaki Herenga Waka Trust that came out on top.

Namaka says, “I was lucky enough to be in the final. Very lucky indeed to steer a team that gave their all at this level.”

Mihinnick, says, “Yes we gave our all, made waves, made spiritual connection to the canoe as well as the sea.”

No doubt the future of traditional waka tētē races with event's like Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival are very much alive alongside a thriving maritime industry.