Hoea te waka!



It’s that time of year when the swift slice of the hoe cuts through the water, the six paddlers move as one, and all eyes are on their own waka as teams throughout Aotearoa and beyond, compete for the 2016 Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Waka Ama National Sprints.   For us in Te Waipounamu, some of us will be lucky enough to be backing our whānau from the shores of Lake Karapiro; the rest of us will be glued to Maori Television, as Te Waka Pounamu; Waitaha Paddling Club; Whakatu Marae Paddling Club and Te Waka o Aoraki, and other waka being driven by our whānau will be powering to the finishing line.  Mauri Ora ki a koutou!


More than 1500 teams from 65 clubs throughout the country are racing against each other at the nationals this year. All in all, it’s expected that around 3000 paddlers will compete across ten age divisions.   That is a simply breath-taking statement – that’s literally thousands of whānau who are directly connected to a sport which essentially is about the expression of kotahitanga; all hands to the hoe, working together as one.

One of the exciting features of waka ama has been the impact and influence it has seen amongst our tamariki.   488 paddlers are competing in the midget section this year, the biggest turn out in their 27-year history.  Another 613 paddlers are in the intermediate section.   Just look at this turnout from Ngati Toa Rangatira of their waka squad – ka mau te wehi!

Waka Ama also offers a chance to re-connect with the histories and heritage of the earliest navigators.   The greatest skill of those early voyagers was the ability to read the night sky, to chart the winds, to locate their waka within the ambit of the brightest and most distinctive stars and planets. 

Te kapehu whetū – the Māori star compass – divides the 360 degrees around a waka, depending on where the sun, moon and stars set and rise. The navigator then attempts to keep the canoe on a course relative to these observations.

In many ways, this is a marvellous metaphor for describing the challenges and dynamic opportunity of being a Whānau Ora navigator.   This week – on Thursday – we called together some of our navigators across Te Waipounamu to share stories and learn from each other.   At the hui we had representation from Whakatu Marae (Nelson); Te Whare Hauora and Te Runanga o Nga Maata Waka (Christchurch); Arai Te Uru Hauora; Te Roopu Tautoko ki te Tonga and Kai Tahu ki Otago (Dunedin) and Te Runaka o Awarua (Awarua Whānau Services in Invercargill).

Serena Lyders    
Awarua Whānau Services

Jake Matheson
Tu Mai, Kāi Tahu Ki Otago

Manea Tekii
Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora, Otepoti

Here are some of the gems that came out of the kōrero:

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”

“Whānau planning is all about making us dream again”

“Ma mua ka kite a muri, ma muri ka ora a mua (those who lead give sight to follow; those who follow give life to those who lead)

“Joining the dots”

He aha te kai o te rangatira, he korero, he korero, he korero (what is the kai of the rangatira – it is knowledge; it is communication)

“He wahine whāereere, he tamaiti piri pono” (A nurturing mother, a confident child).

“Our future is created by what we do today, not tomorrow”.

Our navigator team sees themselves as helping whānau to reignite the spark of their natural leadership.   It’s about supporting whānau to find their way again, to create their own destiny.   Just as our tupuna learnt to navigate different ways of reading the world, so too, do whānau need the courage and confidence to believe in their own ability to utilise networks, to build on their strengths, and then to aim for the stars.   


We are so lucky, today, with the range of resources we have as whānau to share the knowledge of earlier times, regarding the spirit of navigation.  As an example, Kā Puna Karikari a Rākaihautū tells the legendary deeds of Rākaihautū, who captained the Uruao waka to Aotearoa, and with his people, settled Te Waipounamu.    Whakatu Marae Waka Ama club describes as part of their passion statement: “To assist in the revival of our voyaging relationship with the oceans, an heirloom of our Polynesian heritage”.   The challenge now for all of us, is to reclaim and revitalise the spirit of navigation from years gone by, into the currents of contemporary life.  

And in the Whānau Ora space, it is our stories together, our shared accounts of the world we experience that help us all to move forward, in charting our progress into the future.  Give us a call, (0800 @TPOTW / 0800 187689) or email us, (info@teputahitanga.org) if you want to be in touch with one of our Whanau Ora Navigators.

Tōia mai ngā waka e te iwi e, hoea hoea rā.