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Waka Saftey Hui



Developing a better public understanding of the role of waka in Maori culture and the comprehensive traditional protocols that are in place to promote waka safety, was the key message to emerge from a waka safety hui held in Wellington yesterday.

The hui, of key members of the Maori community closely involved in the operation of a wide range of different types of waka throughout the country, was called by the Maritime Safety Authority to discuss waka safety issues.

The Director of Maritime Safety, Russell Kilvington, said that "a key purpose of the hui was to begin establishing a relationship between the Maori community and the MSA, within the framework of a discussion about cultural and safety issues relating to waka".

"The hui was, I believe, of benefit to all concerned as it provided an opportunity for wide ranging discussion on waka safety, and helped to identify the key issues on which both the MSA and the Maori community can jointly focus attention in the future", Mr. Kilvington said.

The group was unanimous in concluding that:

* Overall, the safety record of waka is good relative to other water based activities. This is in large part due to the traditional waka safety culture which exists within the Maori community. Safety protocols are often in written form, but are also an inherent part of both the `on-water' training of waka crew and the operation of the waka itself.

* The MSA will seek to help waka operators to establish written codes of best practice for different types of waka for those wishing to use them. This may form a basis for specific national safety audits by the distinct types of operation such as waka ama in the future.

* Emphasis in improving waka safety, where this may be seen as necessary, is most usefully focused on better training, education and experience. Participation within waka activity itself breeds familiarity and competence.

* The MSA will develop key links with people in the waka community, for advice and media liaison.

* The MSA will use these links to obtain assistance in the investigation of any future waka accidents.

* Greater education of the public and the media about waka is needed, both in terms of their cultural significance to Maori and the traditional safety protocols that govern their use.

* The many different types of waka that are used in a range of different activities, and the different safety protocols needed for each, are also not well understood by those not directly involved in their operation.

Mr Kilvington said that the MSA and representatives of the Maori community would be working together over the coming months to implement the proposals put forward by the hui.


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