“I’m from the Tainui tribe, and my parents would often visit Turangawaewae where I saw the revival of the Waikato River canoes at Ngaruawahia. At the Auckland Anniversary regatta in 1970 a war canoe was used for the first time in years … I was young but it had a huge impact on me. In 1972 the Maori Queen commissioned a new war canoe, and this boosted the tradition.
|Skipper Hotu and Haunui waka The Waikato Independent|
"By the time I was 17 I was in charge of a big waka. Then in 1975 I saw a film about the launching of the Hawaiian waka, Hokule’a at the Maori Queen’s house … from that time I was fascinated by this ocean going craft and wanted to sail on her. After studying anthropology at Auckland University I went to Hawaii and hung out with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, who were relearning ancient celestial navigation techniques. They had brought in a Micronesian master navigator called Mau Piailug to teach them the old skills. He became navigator on a voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976.
"Until 1992 the Hawaiian canoe was the only double-hulled waka in Polynesia. Then Hec Busby built Te Aurere here in NZ and from then on I was involved in her ocean voyages … to Rarotonga and back, and there was a lot of knowledge exchange with Hawaiian crew …
"The German philanthropist Dieter Paulmann became interested in the impact of man on the world’s oceans, and saw a waka fleet in the Pacific as a way of publicising this. We agreed to build waka to teach sailing and navigation and to record the degradation of the oceans … First Peoples from every land were saying we had become deaf to the message of nature.
"Haunui was built in 2009, the second in the fleet of seven, which were all built at Salthouse Boats in Greenhithe. She’s made of modern materials, but based on drawings made by 18th century European explorers … meticulous naval drawings of Polynesian canoes. Each of Haunui’s twin hulls has its own name … I named the port hull after one of my aunties and the other hull after my Dad. He was pretty sceptical about my whole interest in waka revival.
"We’re re-introducing the Maori and Polynesian kids on board to the greatness of their ancestors. Many of them aren’t aware of how astronomy, biology and sailing are part of their heritage.