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South Wairarapa’s dream: Lake Ferry waka centre

Waka on Henley Lake, the nearest waka centre for those in South Wairarapa. PHOTO/FILE

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“Returning our waka to Wairarapa Moana” is the title of a new fundraising campaign to establish a waka centre on the shores of Onoke [Lake Ferry], which would allow people across South Wairarapa to row waka on the lake.

The campaign was started by the trust formed last year, Te Rua o Mahara Wairarapa, composed of Amber Craig, Tiraumaera TeTau, and Raihania Tipoki.

“We want to help our community and our whanau out in South Wairarapa, to help realise our goals and dreams,” Craig said.

“This is about having our waka returned to Lake Wairarapa and the Wairarapa Moana, which also includes Lake Onoke – it’s been a dream of many of our whanau before us.”

In the past, waka have been hired and used on the lake, but there hasn’t been a permanent, established group where people, particularly younger folk [rangitahi], were able to meet and paddle on the lake together.

Te Rua o Mahara Wairarapa also were looking to establish buildings at the lakeside where the club could be based.

Those wanting to take part in a waka club in South Wairarapa would have to drive to Masterton to be able to do this, up to an hour for those based nearer to Pirinoa.

Craig said that establishing a waka centre was important for several different but interconnected reasons.

“It not only gets us fit and healthy – in mind, body and spirit – it also helps us to connect back to the lake and look at the health of it – as we’re paddling on it – and also to the whenua, the land around it.”

So far, several businesses and individuals have donated $9000. A fundraiser has also raised about $3390 of a goal of $11,690. The group said they wanted to get a club together for regular training, and also to get the community engaged with the health of the Lake, through being on the water itself, using it for waka.

The trust is also working closely with Kohunui Marae, and with all their extended family – who have been keen and supportive of the initiative.

Craig said tangible projects were important at this time, and that they encouraged people to come back home who may have become disconnected from their Wairarapa roots.

Wairarapa Moana is one of the most unhealthy freshwater areas in the North Island, regularly deemed “supertrophic” by Land, Air, Water, Aotearoa [LAWA] – the government agency that monitors New Zealand’s water bodies.

Supertrophic lakes have high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus from intensive farming, meaning that they are poor at supporting life and susceptible to developing algal blooms which often make swimming dangerous.

“These are the lakes that our region derives its name from, so we need to protect them.”

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