Tuurangawaewae Royal Regatta
The date for this event is Saturday 22 March 2014.
If you happen to be among those special first time invited guests of Te Arikinui Kiingi Tuheitia, the following Protocol Briefing will help you in a small way to overcome any nervousness when considering the Invitation.
Kiingi Tuheitia views the Regatta event as a way to introduce first time visitors to Tuurangawaewae Marae and the Kiingitanga. The event is less formal in Protocol or Tikanga so he is able to mix easier in a more relaxed and casual manner. The day will begin with the most treasured of Maaori Rituals – the “Poowhiri”- at 9am sharp. Your invitation advises that you be at the front gates of Tuurangawaewae Marae on River Road no later than 8.50am.
The dress code is smart casual for gentlemen and summer or casual dress for women. Hats, sun umbrella’s and sun screen lotion are strongly recommended as the sun can be quite intense if you decide to take a walk around the Marae Complex or Regatta grounds. You are advised to wear casual but comfortable footwear. Throughout the entire day food and beverage will be provided, so you need not worry about bringing any food.
Following the 9am Poowhiri, you will be led into the Ancestral House “Mahinaarangi” where you will formally meet and share morning tea with Kiingi Tuheitia, his Consort Makau Ariki Atawhai and other members of the Kaahui Ariki (Royal Family). This will take around 1 hour. Following this, you will form part of the Procession down to the River Bank Official Dais, from which you can watch the days festivities.
On the day you can expect to see a number of traditional waka taua in all their splendour as well as various classes of racing in the smaller, modern, twin-hulled, fibreglass waka ama. There are kapa haka exhibitions and a huge number of stalls and other activities to entertain the whole family. Each year, hundreds of competitors and spectators converge on Tuurangawaewae Marae from all around the country for two days of competition, fun, feasting and catching up with friends and family.
Supported by Tuurangawaewae Marae, Marae whaanau (families), Ngaaruawaahia Rowing Club, the wider community and, latterly, the New Zealand Rowing Association, the Regatta is a hugely popular event regionally and nationally.
The Ngaaruawaahia Regatta was first held in 1896 and quickly became the biggest aquatic carnival in the Maaori calendar. It is thought to be the second oldest Regatta in New Zealand history (Auckland Anniversary Regatta being the first). Now named the Tuurangawaewae Royal Regatta, it specifically promotes traditional Maaori waka racing and grew out of an immensely popular regatta originally held on the Waikato River to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.
A river people
In Maori creation myth Papatuanuku is the earth mother, with her lifeblood being the rivers and waterways fed by the tears of Ranginui, the sky father, in sorrow at his separation from his beloved wife. Like the arteries and veins in our bodies, the rivers and waterways nourished and sustained with her bountiful stocks of kai (food). They also linked communities otherwise separated, and protected, by rugged landscapes, extensive swamps, wetlands and dense, primordial forests in a highly efficient transportation and communications network.
By 1850 Waikato had a fleet of over 1500 waka – canoes – of various sizes engaged in the transportation of goods and people and supporting a trading empire that stretched out beyond the seas to Australia, the South Pacific, England – and the Americas.
However, the river – te awa – was much more than New Zealand’s longest river. It was an ancestor river, a tupuna awa, whose health and wellbeing was inextricably linked to the health and wellbeing of her people.
The rivers and waterways were also the hunting grounds of the dreaded waka taua – massive war canoes capable of travelling great distances and carrying up to 140 fully armed warriors each. These most sacred of vessels could take teams of specialist craftsmen years to build and they often carried the names of famous ancestors or significant events. To have one fall into the hands of an enemy was a catastrophic loss.
With water transport forming such an important part of Maori cultural life it was only natural that waka races and other feats of skill and endurance were developed to hone strength and skills on the water. Waikato’s feats on the river were the stuff of legend, encapsulated in the tribal saying: Waikato taniwharau, he piko, he taniwha (“Waikato of a hundred chiefs, at every bend a chief”) The linkage between the Regatta and the Maori Monarchy was established by the late, revered, Princess Te Puea Herangi. She saw the Regatta as an ideal opportunity to re-connect Waikato with their River. She also revitalised interest in the ancient art of canoe-carving and, in 1936, began with the restoration of Te Winika, a waka that had lain in the mud of Port Waikato since the hostilities of 1863.
Later, during World War Two, the Regatta provided an opportunity to make a contribution to this country’s war effort by entertaining the servicemen and women of the New Zealand and United States Armed Forces. Princess Te Puea and the people of Waikato contributed funds totalling £45,000 over this period.
The Maori Monarchy has, since then, played a large part in the staging, funding, planning and managing of the event. The current monarch, King Tuheitia has a very close affinity with the waka that will be on show. Tatahi Ora, the most recently commissioned waka in the Waikato-Tainui fleet was named by the King in 2008 to celebrate the 150 year anniversary of the formation of the Kiingitanga Movement, and his own Coronation.
Up until 1943 the Regatta was staged at “the Point” where two rivers, the Waipa and the Waikato, converge. In 1970 it was moved to the banks adjacent to Tuurangawaewae Marae, where it has been staged ever since.