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Waka Safety Guidelines Launch

1 October 2001

Following extensive discussion, consultation, research and collaboration on the safety issues facing the waka community culminates on Thursday 4 October, with the launch of the National Safety Guidelines for Waka, Kaupapa Waka.

A number of incidents involving waka brought in to focus for Maori leaders, the waka community and the Maritime Safety Authority the need for a review of safety procedures.

A series of hui were held throughout the country with various Iwi and waka groups to gather information on traditional safety practices already in place, share concerns and discuss the establishment of national safety guidelines.

The two largest waka groups, Waka Ama (racing waka) and Waka Taua (ceremonial waka), were identified as having good safety records, but it was felt that the development of separate written safety guidelines would enhance the safety culture in to the future.

One of the most contentious issues discussed was that of life jackets, particularly in regard to Waka Taua.

“At first I thought it was going to be about forcing kaihoe to wear life jackets but as we went around the country and thrashed it out, it became clear that the safety of our men was the issue, not life jackets,” says veteran ocean voyager Hekenukumai Busby.

The safety guidelines include procedures, endorsed by the Maritime Safety Authority, to address safety issues that may arise from the capsize of a waka or man overboard. These include the use of chase boats which carry emergency equipment as well as life jackets for all the paddlers.

Hoturoa Kerr, of Nga Kaihoe o Aotearoa has been involved in Waka Ama for a number of years and has been integral in the process of consultation.

“One of the most important things to come out of this process has been the partnerships that have developed, the sharing of knowledge and experience. Maori have worked with Maori, Waka Ama have worked with Waka Taua and we have all worked with the MSA to produce procedures that are acceptable and inclusive,” says Mr Kerr.

The guidelines have been developed by the waka community for the waka community and they go further than just detailing safety procedures. They clarify the roles and responsibilities of all those who paddle, support and embrace the waka as well as outlining training, operational and emergency procedures, equipment and construction requirements.

The formal launch of the safety guidelines acknowledges the establishment of a partnership with Maori, as well as recognising the process of consultation which has resulted in the development of the guidelines.

“The MSA works to promote safety on the water and we are pleased to have been able to support such a positive initiative, driven by the waka community to ensure the safety of their crews,” says Russell Kilvington, Director of Maritime Safety.

On 4 October 2001 Nga Waka Federation, Nga Kaihoe o Aotearoa and the Maritime Safety Authority will launch the National Safety Guidelines for Waka, Kaupapa Waka at Hobsons Wharf in the Viaduct Basin in Auckland.

Proceedings will start at 11.00am, featuring the arrival of Waka, welcome by Ngati Whatua, an address by the Minister of Transport, the Hon. Mark Gosche and on the water demonstrations of safety procedures and equipment.


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