The Waikato war canoes Tumanako and Te Rangatahi that regularly feature at the annual Ngāruawāhia Regatta have turned 80 years old.
The two vessels were part of a flotilla of six war canoes that delighted King Tuheitia and hundreds gathered on the banks of the Waikato River at Tūrangawaewae Marae.
The paddle in the war canoes Tumanako and Te Rangatahi was hugely significant for the locals.
“Being generations of paddlers, our great-grandfathers were the paddlers of Tumanako and The Rangatahi when they were launched.
“And then three generations, four generations later you find not only ourselves, but you also find our sons paddling on Tumanako especially. Tumanako being the waka tauā that is manned by Ngāti Mahuta, specifically Tūrangawaewae Marae,” says Regatta Race Co-ordinator, Ikimoke Tamaki.
The war canoes were commissioned by the marae's founder, Te Puea, in 1938 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi two years later.
“Te Puea was inspired to build war canoes to commemorate the migration of the fleet of waka from Hawaii and the Pacific to New Zealand,” said marae elder, Mamae Takarei Te Rauangaanga.
“The government agreed to financially support her efforts.”
But with the onset of the Second World War, the government re-directed funding for the project.
“Te Puea managed to complete two waka. The government only contributed 10 pounds but they supplied the wood for the build to Te Puea,” said Takarei Te Rauangaanga.
The aspirations for locals is to continue paddling in the waka for the next 80 years.