From Wellington to waka paddler

By D'Angelo Martin

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was granted a rare privilege of paddling alongside kaihoe of Te Waka Tētē o te Whānau Moana this afternoon.

An honour of this magnitude has never been afforded to a New Zealand Prime Minister at Waitangi and Ardern took her newly designated duties seriously and with great pride. 

Tohunga kaihoe Joe Conrad (Te Rarawa) granted the Prime Minister's request and his team was fully prepared for the arrival of their new paddler.

Joe Conrad says the Prime Minister approached his team today asking for an opportunity to be a part of the crew.

Rutene Gabel (Te Paatū) says, “It’s very historic and a first for a Prime Minister to jump on a canoe to paddle as one of them. She’s actually the first to ask to be a part of it.”

While the task of paddling alongside skilled experts would be daunting for some, Ardern took on the challenge with enthusiasm.

“She wants to paddle, for her to embrace what we do and those paddles, they aren’t light. She will hear the essence of the haka and the sound of the water.”

Her waka was flanked by more waka and paddlers.

Joe Conrad says, “On the right side of Te Whānau Moana will be Mātaatua Puhi, on the left will be Te Ika ā Maui Mokopuna, behind will be Mātaatua Toroa and Te Whakaangi. Our paddlers will look after the Prime Minister.”

Kaupapa waka has been passed down through generations and according to these young ones they are determined to maintain the tradition.

Tawiti Harrison says, “The idea is for this to continue and be passed down to the next generations so it will live on forever.”

Kauri Paparoa a student from Te Rangi Āniwaniwa says they support the kaupapa and they are aiming to increase the numbers of young paddlers here in the north.

Conrad says, “They know the importance of kaupapa waka and its significance because soon it will be them who will look after this kaupapa.”

Tomorrow the canoes will go back out to sea for their annual Waka presentation at the 180th Waitangi commemorations.