Te Tauihu iwi Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō witnessed a new dawn in their cultural revitalisation on Sunday with the launch of
their waka tangata, Te Haeata.
About 150 people gathered at Rotoiti, in the Nelson Lakes, to watch as Te Haeata was blessed and took her maiden voyage.
Cultural Advisor Kiley Nepia says Te Haeata, which translates as ‘a new dawn’, represents a significant moment in time
for the iwi.
“Te Haeata is a symbol of pride, of revitalisation and of unity. This has been a really proud day and a really moving
event for us. After generations, we are able to once again assert our mana moana. There is a whakatauki that says ‘From
a withered tree, the flower blooms’ and that is certainly the case for Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō. We’ve been hugely focused
on cultural revitalisation over the past five years or so and the launch of our waka is the next natural step in that
Nepia says the level of support from the community had also been heartening.
“It was incredible to see the interest from the wider community – we had a lot of people turn up to support, which is
really meaningful. The local DOC workers, representatives of the local school, business owners in this area – it’s been
a great way to connect and strengthen both relationships and understanding.”
The carvings on Te Haeata, crafted by well-known master carver and Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō trustee Fayne Robinson, pay
homage to Ngāti Apa tipuna Tamahau, who led some of the migrations to Te Tauihu at the helm of the famed waka taua Te
Kaiwhakatere, or steerer, Lee Mason, of Blenheim, said he was proud to be part of the foundation crew.
“It was an incredible feeling to be out there on the water. The karakia brought tears to my eyes. It’s been seven or so
generations since we’ve had a waka, so this does have deep meaning for us.
“It’s great for our rangatahi, it’s great for all of us and I think it will grow to be something that more and more
people will want to be part of.”