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Tihei: Te Matau A Maui – our voyaging heritage continues

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Te Po and TK were among the crew of Te Matau a Maui on its recent voyage to Kaiteriteri and back.


Ngāti Kahungunu has a proud voyaging history, first landing in Aotearoa more than 1000 years ago on the waka Takitimu.

In 2011, Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated (NKII) bought Te Matau a Maui, a 22-metre waka hourua (double-hulled voyaging canoe), as an investment into rejuvenating ancient voyaging practices and reinvigorating cultural values through leadership and the development of rangatahi.

To realise this aspiration, the iwi has an agreement with Kahungunu kaitiaki to manage the care of the waka and to design and deliver programmes to share the cultural knowledge and practices of ancient voyaging. NKII acknowledges Ātea Rangi Educational Trust, which delivers these educational programmes and opportunities.

Earlier this month the crew of Te Matau a Maui set sail for Kaiteretere (near Nelson) in the South Island, to attend the annual Te Hau Kōmaru festival, an event to share knowledge of waka hourua, heritage, craftsmanship, waka workshops, interactive activities, and provide a platform for waka experts to share their knowledge and in-depth understanding.

Te Matau a Maui crew members Millie and Dan.
Te Matau a Maui crew members Millie and Dan.

Ātea Rangi leader and celestial navigator Piripi Smith said the voyage was a great opportunity for the new crew to get coastal sailing experience. “The highlight for me was to see our young crew members being able to handle the moana,” Smith said.

“We had seven rangatahi do their first sails over the two legs; our three youngest were 12-year-old Millie Logan, 14-year-old Tainga Smith and 15-year-old Tamas Madarasz-Smith, all children of current crew members.”

These wonderful opportunities are made possible purely through a group effort. The kaitiaki of the waka and their team are committed to this kaupapa and it is evident in their time and effort spent to maintain the waka, learn further skills and expound the knowledge to others.

The Te Hau Kōmaru festival began on April 6 and finished on April 14. Participants were rostered to travel, some flying in and sailing back or sailing up and flying back, some driving to parts of the country to meet up at designated areas. A full schedule of plans to ensure everyone was well informed and involved was disseminated but, as for all travellers, the weather determined the timing. Waka experts made good decisions and the waka functioned well there and back.

Te Hau Kōmaru National Waka Hourua Charitable Trust was formed in 2021 to support kaupapa waka hourua throughout Aotearoa.

The crew in their Te Matau a Maui uniform.
The crew in their Te Matau a Maui uniform.

Te Hau Kōmaru Board is a collective of kaupapa waka experts voted in as representatives of the different rohe to guide, advise and inform on mātauranga waka with a focus on the preservation and protection of kaupapa and kōrero waka to keep mātauranga waka alive.

Smith represents Te Matau a Māui on the Te Hau Kōmaru Board. Organisers of the Te Hau Kōmaru festival are pleased with the event.

Their intent to raise awareness and educate people about the cultural significance and history of waka hourua was achieved and learnings from this festival will help to improve future events. Our voyaging heritage is safe in the hands of our rangatahi. The knowledge must continue to be shared.

Ruth Wong is the support services team leader at Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc.

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