As the rangatahi arm of Te Waka Pounamu Outrigger Canoe Club, Te Waka Taiohi o Tahu gives rangatahi the opportunity to connect with their culture through sport.  

TWP Rangatahi Co-ordinator, Keela Atkinson-Cranwell (Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Apa, Cook Islands), says it’s a subtle interweaving that introduces Te Ao Māori to participants in a non-threatening way and she is delighted that Tama Ora funding from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has given the club the certainty of knowing their rangatahi initiatives are secure for months ahead. 

Established in 2001, Te Waka Pounamu Outrigger Canoe Club is the only waka ama club in Ōtautahi that has a rangatahi focus, providing weekly training sessions for tamariki. Tama Ora funding has enabled them to provide all the necessary safety equipment – lifejackets and paddles – needed to ensure their growing numbers of young paddlers are safe on the water. 

On October 30In October, the club staged its Pioke Pursuit training day at Rāpaki Marae, which aimed to encourage whānau to participate in waka ama. 

“It was an opportunity for our whole club to come together and for our young paddlers (aged 10-19), to meet everyone else and celebrate being part of waka ama in Ōtautahi. We staged mixed waka ama team pursuit events for them, which helps them prepare to participate in future South Island and natyional events” says Keela. 

“Funding has meant we could eliminate the barriers that may have prevented some whānau from coming along. We covered event registration, kai supplies and we purchased new tamariki life jackets and new adult jackets for older rangatahi.”  

Funding has also enabled them to subsidise equipment purchase for whānau and to purchase colourful shirts and caps for all staff and event volunteers so they are easily identifiable. Holiday programmes for young paddlers and future training wānanga right through to April 2023 have also been set in place. 

“Pioke Pursuit was the first event of our waka ama season and as always, we planned it with a focus on fun. We want our rangatahi to learn all the correct water safety procedures in a fun environment and it’s important to us that the whole whānau can come along and take part. We want rangatahi to be inspired by mums and dads taking part and we want parents to see that we are a whānau group that requires the support of many hands.” 

That inclusive whānau approach is key to both encouraging the growth of waka ama in Ōtautahi and to providing rangatahi with the tools and inspirations they need to connect to their cultural heritage says Keela. 

“A lot of Christchurch kids don’t have ready access to the harbour or beaches but by joining us, they can get to the best parts of Whakaraupōo – we’ve even paddled a waka across the harbour to Koukourārata, stopping along the way to gather mussels. It’s these sorts of cultural opportunities that are so important and Tama Ora funding has been a real boost for the club. It’s enabled us to reach out to more whānau and to promote the benefits of waka ama, sailing and navigation in Te Waipounamu.