Waka Ama Putting Whānau First
The Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Waka Ama Sprint Nationals is one of the pinnacle events on the Waka Ama calendar, and 2022 was proving to be no different - until the latest COVID-19 Delta strain hit.
With the support of Sport NZ Ihi Aotearoa, Government agencies and health professionals to regularly stay abreast of matters, Waka Ama NZ have been working hard for the Waka Ama community to enable events such as the Sprint Nationals to go ahead.
In light of the current COVID-19 information available, the Waka Ama NZ Board have made the very difficult decision that the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Waka Ama Sprint Nationals will be cancelled for 2022.
Zalene Douglas (Waka Ama NZ Board Chair) says “In making the decision to cancel the 2022 Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Waka Ama Sprint Nationals, the board of Waka Ama New Zealand was of the firm view that we could not put at risk any of our Waka Ama whānau”.
Zalene says “Our tamariki are the most vulnerable and we have to ensure that we run events that will ensure the safety of everyone. Our national championship is a whānau event, during which time our tamariki are present throughout the whole week as competitors or alongside pakeke or their kuia and kaumatua. It was not an easy decision but one we all felt needed to be made”
A number of factors contributed to this decision - keeping the Waka Ama community safe from the risk of transmitting COVID-19, the concern for Tamariki under 12 who are unable to be vaccinated, the increased travel of the Waka Ama whānau throughout Aotearoa and the large inequities and disparity in vaccination rates for Māori and Pasifika whānau compared with general population vaccination percentages - 75% of participants at the event are Māori or Pasifika.
This will be the first time in 32 years, since the event started in 1990, that the event is cancelled. The event has grown to become a highlight on the Waka Ama calendar, an opportunity to come together, catch up with friends and whānau, make new friends, share culture, compete on the water and celebrate a sport and kaupapa that changes lives.
Lara Collins (Waka Ama NZ CEO) says “We know that this will be very disappointing for all our regions, member clubs, paddlers, volunteers and whānau and we share in that disappointment. The decision was not taken lightly and has been made, first and foremost, with the safety of everyone in mind”. “We hope that all our whānau are safe and well at this time. COVID-19 has certainly been difficult and challenging for everyone”.
Waka Ama NZ plans to provide opportunities for everyone to share their Nationals experiences, virtually through the sharing of stories, photos and footage and celebrate the event even though it cannot take place in 2022. The Sprint Nationals was set as the World Sprints qualifying event for the IVF Va’a World Sprints being held in August 2022 in London - more information will be released regarding a qualifying process for the Aotearoa NZ paddlers and clubs.
Waka Ama NZ urges the Waka Ama whānau to continue to stay safe over the next couple of months, look after each other, be kind and make decisions that will help keep you and your whānau safe during this time.