Capital's Second Waka Arrives Tomorrow

15 September 2011

The second waka to be housed in the wharewaka Te Raukura on the Wellington waterfront will be launched early tomorrow (Friday 16 September at 7.30am).

The new waka taua will not be just a museum piece. While it will be on permanent public display through the glass sides of Te Raukura (the wharewaka), it is a working waka and Wellingtonians and visitors will be able to see a prominent expression of Māori art and culture out on the capital city's waterfront on a regular basis.

The name of the new waka taua will be revealed at the launch tomorrow. It will partner the waka tētēkura Te Hononga, which arrived last month.

The waka taua was carved in Northland under the guidance of Hector Busby, the country's most renowned waka builder, and master carver Takirirangi Smith. Waka taua are the largest and most elaborate of the single-hull carved waka used by Māori, particularly for ceremonial events, and in days gone by a waka taua was very much a war canoe.

The waka taua was carved from a swamp kauri thought to be more than a thousand years old. It has an elaborately carved prow called the tau ihu. When the waka is used in ceremonial occasions it has two poles protruding from the prow covered with feathers called ihiihi. These represent two large 'eyes' or karu atua through which the way ahead is viewed.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the second waka for Te Raukura is an exciting development in the partnership between Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Wellington City Council.

"This is a significant day for Wellington. The cultural development of the city and vision for the waterfront has been enhanced further by the arrival of this waka taua."

"The presence of a waka taua signifies self-determination, prestige and strength." 

Sir Ngatata Love, Chairman of both the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust representing Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Te Wharewaka o Pōneke Charitable Trust, and who will hold the kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the waka taua, welcomed the arrival of the new waka taua to join with Te Hononga.

"This waka taua is a further symbol of the enduring relationship between Wellington City Council and Taranaki Whānui. We are proud of the relationship between us and believe that for generations to come firm foundations have been laid and that symbols such as this waka taua demonstrate to the wider community the importance and reality of true partnership."

Sir Ngatata said the location of Te Raukura and the two waka within the building further signified the return of Taranaki Whānui to a waterfront "once thriving with our tipuna and from where they launched their waka from tauranga waka sites."

While on reclaimed land, Te Raukura is near the harbour frontage of Te Aro Pā, one of the largest Māori communities in Wellington up until the 1880s. Today the intersection of Taranaki Street and Courtenay Place covers part of the site of Te Aro Pā. The surrounding area to the east that formerly contained the Waitangi swamp and lagoon also made up the Pā site.