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Te Hau Kōmaru National Waka Hourua Festival Opens In Kaiteretere, Welcoming Largest Waka Fleet In Centuries

The third installment of the Te Hau Kōmaru National Waka Hourua Festival commenced today, marking a historic moment as the largest fleet of waka hourua in centuries sailed into Te Tau Ihu o te Waka a Māui.

Photo credit: Oliver Weber

Hundreds of spectators gathered at dawn in Kaiteretere to witness the event, many experiencing the awe-inspiring sight of waka hourua for the first time.

Te Hau Kōmaru Co-chair and tohunga waka, Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr said, "The crowd were overwhelmed with the scale of the waka and the fleet entering the harbour together was an awesome sight. It’s really significant to be able to bring the festival and all these waka hourua to Te Tau Ihu, to continue our mahi of protecting and bringing awareness to kaupapa waka.”

The four waka and their crew were welcomed in a pōwhiri from mana whenua of Te Tau Ihu o te Waka a Māui, including Ngāti Rārua, Te Ati Awa and Ngāti Toa. Iwi representative Barney Thomas said the festival is a unifying experience.

“This is such an important kaupapa, to recognise that our ancestors came by waka. Our 8 iwi of Te Tau Ihu are descendants of three of the great migration waka - Tainui, Tokomaru and Kurahaupō. This morning was about remembering that and also bringing all of the people of Te Tau Ihu together.”

This year's festival, held in the South Island for the first time and running until next Sunday, is anticipated to attract upwards of 1500 attendees. 900 ākonga from local kura will also attend and take part in workshops that share waka and navigation mātauranga.

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Te Hau Kōmaru Charitable Trust was formed in 2021 to support kaupapa waka hourua through an organised establishment. Te Hau Kōmaru brings together kaupapa waka experts representing different rohe and is a group that people can go to for guidance, advice and information on mātauranga waka. 

Te Hau Kōmaru focuses on protection, sharing and keeping mātauranga waka alive. Its national body and representatives are creating pathways for each society and trust to share mātauranga waka and create spaces where this mātauranga and its practices can be appropriately implemented with the following goals in mind: 

  • That the public awareness of waka hourua kaupapa is further enhanced 
  • That mātauranga waka hourua is acknowledged and shared

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