From Whangārei to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant
Eighteen year old Billy Harrison has been paddling waka Māori since he was six years old. He’s now preparing to fly to London at the end of May to take part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on 3 June.
The Whangārei resident is one of 14 kaihoe (paddlers) that will row the ceremonial waka taua (war canoe) Te Hono ki Aotearoa / The Link to New Zealand in the Pageant.
Billy, who is also kaihoe for Te Ika a Māui, says he first started paddling at Waitangi alongside Chapman Harrison, also in the crew for the Pageant, and other whānau. It is now a part of his lifestyle that he enjoys for the “whakawhanaungatanga, tikanga and just getting out on the water.”
“For me kaupapa waka keeps me grounded and keeps me wanting to learn more and I encourage everybody to participate in kaupapa waka,” Billy says.
The waka taua Te Hono ki Aotearoa will be one of more than 1,000 vessels in a flotilla taking part in the 4-hour formal procession. It will be one of the largest flotillas ever assembled on the river.
The crew of 14 kaihoe began their training at the end of March and included three wānanga in Hamilton. They trained on the Waikato River with a waka taua named Whakāngi which was carved from the same 800 year old tree that Te Hono ki Aotearoa was crafted from. As well as being out on the River, the wānanga also involved gym work, road running and haka and waiata practices. It is an intense weekend of learning and training.
For Billy, the biggest challenges about being a kaihoe are: “paddling for two hours straight and getting off [the waka] because I love it.”
This is Billy’s first time to London and his family is very proud of his selection for the crew. His father is a staunch supporter who encourages his son to “Go hard!”
He’s looking forward to the whole experience and what he will learn. “Going to London will give me an idea of what other countries and cultures are like.”
The Toi Māori waka taua Te Hono ki Aotearoa is on permanent loan to the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden. It was built as a Waka for Europe and can be used as a vehicle to promote Māori arts, culture and New Zealand at events throughout Europe. The involvement of the waka in the Diamond Jubilee pageant has been funded by the New Zealand government. Officials from Te Puni Kōkiri; Te Manatū Taonga the Ministry for Culture and Heritage; and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have assisted with arrangements.