The festival was a free, Whanau friendly event and was named the Tāmaki Herenga Waka Festival. The festival was sponsored by Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED), who also partnered with the Tāmaki Makaurau’s nineteen Mana Whenua.
Both local and international visitors enjoyed three days of traditional and contemporary Māori culture, including musical performances from the likes of Sammy J, Maisey Rika and Ria Hall, along with Kapa Haka being on show, and also being able to participate in traditional Māori games, storytelling and workshops. Visitors were able to enjoy these performances while having a range of delicious kai to choose from, and to also admire and buy a variety of arts and crafts that were on display.
Last seen over 160 years ago, the festival saw the historical return of competitive waka racing on Te Moana nui o Toi. Mana Whenua who competed included; Ngati Rehua-Ngatiwai ki Aotea; Ngati Paoa; Ngati Te Ata; Ngati Whatua ki Orakei; Ngati Maru; Ngati Tamaoho and Te Ahiwaru. As part of the lead up to the races, Ngati Rehua-Ngatiwai ki Aotea Whanau members participated in an intense waka training programme led by waka expert Riki Minhinnick from Ngati Te Ata. The team were blessed and honoured to be mentored by Riki who taught the Whanau how to paddle and race the waka to a high standard.
Chairman of the Ngati Rehua-Ngatiwai ki Aotea trust and captain of the team, Nicola MacDonald, said “We named our team after our Kaitiaki Te Mauri who is the one-eyed shark and who represents to us both speed; power and strength all of the qualities we were seeking to build and bring on the day”.
Two waka were available on the day, namely Kahukura which was heavier and male, and Kurawaka, which was lighter and female. The draw saw Team Te Mauri pitched against Ngati Whatua ki Orakei who were also top waka tangata and waka ama competitors. From the start of the race Team Te Mauri sprang into action and powered through the water with dynamic speed, beating Ngati Whatua ki Orakei by two waka lengths! The crowd roared with appreciation that newcomers Te Mauri had thoroughly beaten the seasoned professionals.
Nicola said, “Te Mauri is made up primarily of our young people and I am very proud of our rangatahi roopu, and our whanau they are awesome!”
Team Te Mauri moved through to the semi-finals and were up against the number one competitor, Ngati Te Ata who was also Matua Riki Minhinnick’s roopu. Racing in Kahukura, the team called out to Te Mauri to help, with the calls being answered as the waka lifted itself, pushed up and surged ahead; a battle was fought and war cries were echoed across the water. The crowds whooped and hollered in appreciation as Ngati Te Ata swept across the finish line followed closely by Te Mauri.
Nicola said, “We lost to Ngati Te Ata literally by an inch, but it was an epic battle. Our Ngati Te Ata whanaunga had to fight us for the win and they brought it, it was awesome! Our Kaihautu said it was the best race of the day. Well done to our tamariki and mokopuna!”
Nicola said that this year’s inaugural event was fantastic, as it saw our people take their rightful place back on the water in Waka Tangata and it was a privilege to represent our hapu and our iwi. They are already planning on participating and being even more competitive at next year’s regatta.