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BioHeritage paddlers at the Waka Ama Corporate Challenge.

In January, a team from BioHeritage attended the Waka Ama 2024 National Sprint Championships. The team hosted a stall that provided information and activities related to taonga species, kaitiakitanga, and freshwater ecosystem restoration. They even did some paddling as part of the Waka Ama Corporate Challenge. Waimirirangi Ormsby (Waikato, Ngātiwai), our Kaiārahi (Knowledge Broker Māori), was a key organiser for the BioHeritage presence at the event. In this article, Waimirirangi shares her impressions of the week.

It was a mint Waka Ama National Sprint Champs on Karāpiro hosted by Ngāti Korokī Kahukura. The Challenge stall saw around 100 kids per day across 6 days during extreme heat and even a flooded tent. The kids were especially interested in learning more about our tunatuna (also known as elvers or juvenile tuna/eels), why we support river iwi in the trap and transfer programme, and the significance of each of the taonga species they had the chance to colour-in (kea, pīwakawaka, tuna, tūī, pōhutukawa, tohorā, taniwha, and pēpepe).  

Some joined us on Monday morning to release 50,000 tunatuna into the upper part of Karāpiro. Others were even more interested in the pukapuka (book) title pages we had up. These were a promo for the pukapuka series that will be coming out soon. 

We had some tamariki sitting with us for most of the day, sometimes every day. This was a great opportunity to talk to them in more detail about the importance of protecting our taonga.  

Our team participated in the Waka Ama Corporate Challenge and some new paddlers were able to feel and experience the beauty of our awa and the energy that surrounds traditional sport and practices like waka ama. The presence of our Challenge interns, who are also experienced waka ama paddlers, brought a vibrant energy to the Challenge stall and demonstrated rangatahi leadership for our tamariki and even mātua (parents) coming through. 

Overall, the Challenge presence at Waka Ama National Sprint Champs was an opportunity to bring our taiao and taonga forward and engage with others who also work in similar fields, who are interested in doing more for their marae, their hapū, or their iwi, or who simply need evidence and resources, such as ‘When the Crown controls mātauranga’*, to help lobby for similar protection of taonga in their own respective regions. 

Waimirirangi Ormsby 

*“When the Crown controls mātauranga” is a BioHeritage-commissioned report on a survey of Crown policies, programmes, legislation, funding, and impact assessment relating to mātauranga Māori. You can access the full report here and the one-page summary here. 

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