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Government invests in kaupapa waka hourua

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister
Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage

4 February 2020 PĀNUI PĀPĀHO


More New Zealanders are set to learn about the incredible navigational and voyaging prowess of early Māori and Pacific settlers who arrived here more than seven centuries ago.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced $1.75 million over three years to set up a National Body of kaupapa waka hourua experts to strengthen the mātauranga and tikanga or knowledge in Māori and Pacific voyaging traditions.

“During Tuia 250 I saw the immense pride across Aotearoa as we commemorated our country’s voyaging history, and I’m proud today that the Government will support the waka community to ensure this knowledge is not lost – but elevated.

“It is special too that this comes exactly one year after the investiture of the late Sir Hekenukumai Busby, who was recognised for his crucial contribution to the revival of waka building and voyaging both here and across the Pacific.

“We honour his legacy by giving kaupapa waka hourua a stronger foundation and ultimately a sustainable future,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The investment comes on the back of the success of last year’s national commemoration Tuia 250, in which waka hourua crews and celestial navigators showcased their skills to more than 40,000 New Zealanders in 14 different communities during a three-month voyage around the New Zealand coastline.

Notes to editors

• Waka hourua are double-hulled voyaging canoes by which New Zealand’s earliest settlers arrived from Polynesia more than seven centuries ago. Traditional navigators use observations of signs in nature, such as the stars, sun, moon, waves, birds and marine life, in an expert and ancient practice that requires years of training to master.

• The revival of traditional waka voyaging across the Pacific is only a few decades old and has been under significant strain in New Zealand due to competition for limited resources and reliance on volunteers. The new government funding aims to build capability in governance and management, support the practitioners and practices, with the aim of long-term and sustainable survival for the kaupapa.

• There are five active voyaging trusts looking after six working waka hourua in New Zealand. Most rely on significant volunteer labour and ad hoc financial support. Trusts deliver voyage education programmes to communities throughout New Zealand. Collectively, these programmes engage an estimated 100,000 children, young people and their whānau each year. Trusts also undertake commercial sailing opportunities and seek sponsorship and philanthropic support to sustain their operations.

• With the passing of Tā Hekenukumai Busby in 2019, there are now only nine recognised pwo (Pō) navigators in the revival of traditional voyaging and non-instrument navigation across the Pacific. Just two live in New Zealand: John (Jack) Thatcher and Piripi Smith. Seven to eight years of training are required before a navigator can be considered for this honour.

• Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage will be the lead agency working closely with the Office for Māori Crown Relations – Te Arawhiti and other agencies to oversee this initiative. Up to a third of the funding will be allocated to waka voyaging events and activities, while the balance will be directed towards understanding how to sustain the kaupapa now and into the future. The National Body will consult with stakeholders to develop a long-term strategy, and present business case options for its implementation.

• The Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla travelled around the country from October to December last year. Hundreds of Kiwis experienced waka hourua voyaging as Tuia 250 Trainees onboard Haunui, Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti and the Tahitian vessel Fa’afaite. More information is at


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