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Rugby legend runs for Pūkaha

The Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre’s Run for Conservation on Sunday involved four teams, representing Pūkaha, Wairarapa, Tararua, and Westpac, which included rugby legend Richie McCaw, who hit the ground running.

The event comprised a relay-style race along Te Arapiki o Tawhaki [the Pūkaha loop track] with each team completing a total of 8km and victory finally being claimed by the Pūkaha team.

Not put off by the morning’s light drizzle, Pūkaha general manager Emily Court said she still thought there would be a good turnout even though the weather wasn’t playing ball.

“The forest in this weather is even more beautiful because of the greenness and freshness and everything you get from the rain,” she said.

Part of the opening ceremony included McCaw – who is also a Westpac ambassador – being welcomed by Rangitāne, with a mihi whakatau [welcome ceremony] given by kaumātua [elder] Mike Kawana.

McCaw later took part in a tree planting in the forest, something Court said reflected the centre’s relationship with the local iwi.

“The forest was returned to Rangitāne as part of their treaty settlement, and in return they gifted it to the people of Aotearoa,” Court said.

“So we have a real responsibility here at Pūkaha to honour that gift and ensure that Rangitāne are well represented.”

Not exempt from the wind-related carnage plaguing the region, the power went out at the centre for a brief spell, and McCaw’s flight from Christchurch was delayed, although everything pulled through in the end.

After the race, McCaw told the Times-Age that taking part in events like this is a good way to keep fit and motivated.

“When you know you’ve got a goal, in the morning when you get up something makes you do it,” McCaw said.

“The hardest part is always that first step out the door.”

McCaw said keeping up with fitness, health, and wellbeing is still a huge part of his life.

“It’s a big part of my family’s way of life. That’s what it is, it’s a way of life, you turn up and go, ‘Awesome, I get to do something I enjoy’.”

As a Westpac ambassador, McCaw presented a donation of $5000 on behalf of the bank to Pūkaha to be directed towards the conservation efforts for the flora and fauna inside the Pūkaha Reserve.

McCaw also presented the centre with a bag of sports balls donated by iSPORT, One Foundation and Westpac.

Reflecting on his rugby career and place as a sporting role model now, McCaw said there were many aspects of the professional rugby industry he “had to learn on the hop”.

“You don’t so much think about the stuff you do as a pro rugby player outside of the game, like dealing with fans, media, sponsors, the attention you get,” McCaw said.

“They’re all a privilege.”

Grateful for all the opportunities rugby has given him, McCaw noted that the lessons in the industry went beyond the sport.

“As a 20-year-old thrust into that, you learn all those things,” McCaw said.

“Not everyone gets it right all the time, but through sports, you learn things relevant in all areas of life.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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