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Turangawaewae Regatta brings back the cheer in Waikato

Waikato District Council team wins a silver (Photo Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, March 23, 2023

Hamilton, Waikato District Council staff are celebrating coming away with a silver medal in the Rangatahi division at the recent Turangawaewae Regatta.

Returning for the first time since 2019, the regatta saw 24 teams head to the riverbank at Turangawaewae Marae to compete for first place.

The Council team raced in three heats, beating ACC, Te Wharekura o Kirikiriroa, Lumbercorp and Tu Oho Mai to get through to the finals where they faced teams Papakainga and The Ministry of Education for a second time to come away with second place.

“Council’s mahi whanau are incredibly proud and humbled with our placement on Saturday. It was a fantastic day filled with cultural celebration and good vibes, all with a bit of friendly competition of course,” said Council Engagement Coordinator and long-standing waka ama team member I-Jay Huriama.

Second oldest regatta in New Zealand and integral part of history (Photo Supplied)

The Turangawaewae Regatta is the second oldest regatta in Aotearoa New Zealand. Established in 1894 by the Ngaruawahia community to promote and encourage aquatic sports and the preservation of Maori river activities and customs, the event now attracts thousands of spectators and participants to the marae every year.

“For many of us in the team the regatta was not just an opportunity to get together, have a bit of fun and to compete, but also an opportunity to celebrate our culture, history and heritage as well.” adds Huriama.

“We will be back in 2024 and we are hungrier than ever to go for that gold.”

Councillors and staff from the Council turned up to show their support and connect with attendees, with Councillors manning the barbeque to provide 400 sausages to those in attendance all snapped up by lunch time.

Some of  Kiingi Tuheitia’s official guests attending the 128th Regatta anniversary included Ahmad Salem Alwehaib, Ambassador of Kuwait and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ghadah Alduaij, Members of the Princes Trust Aotearoa, Andrew Williams, Rod Baxter and partners and Bridget Galvin and Deputy Police Commissioner (Iwi and Communities) Wallace Haumaha.

Turangawaewae Regatta held on March 21, 2023 (Photo supplied)

About the Regatta

The Turangawaewae Regatta is a significantly historic annual event. It was established in 1894 by the Ngaruawahia community to promote and encourage aquatic sports and the preservation of Māori river activities and customs, making the event the only one in the South Pacific, including Australia.

This makes it the second oldest regatta in New Zealand and an integral part of New Zealand history.

In 1972, the Regatta Association faced multiple challenges when the Waikato and the Waipa rivers flooded; financial difficulties resulted in the association discontinuing the Regatta.

Turangawaewae Marae saw the value in continuing with the event and preserving Māori practices. They took ownership of the event in 1973 under the patronage of Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu.

About the Marae

Tūrangawaewae marae at Ngāruawāhia is the seat of the Maori King movement, which developed in the 1850s to unify Māori and protect their land. Tūrangawaewae marae has hosted many significant events in the past, including welcoming Queen Elizabeth in 1953 and also in 1974.

Tūrangawaewae – literally ‘a place to stand’ – was built in the 1920s under the direction of Te Puea Hērangi, granddaughter of the second Māori king. It was, in fact, Princess Te Puea Hērangi who commissioned the building of a fleet of Waka tauaa to commemorate the ancestral Waka that brought Maori to Aotearoa. Her dream was realised after a long gap of 50 years, when, on Waitangi day (February 6, 1990) 1000 people paddled 22 waka on the water. It was the first time for so many tribal wakas to gather at one place. Symbolic of commitment, teamwork and the spirit of moving forward, the sight of waka on water has an impact on every spectator for its precision, rhythmic movements and the energy with which the teams work.

It all comes alive every year as the wakas come to compete at the place which is of great significance for the Maoris and every New Zealander for the sheer history and stories of our collective history.

With kapa Haka, Wood Chopping, Live Music, Hangi and many games for all age groups, it was surely a fun family day out by the river.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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