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Waka boosts Kiwi presence at Queen's jubilee

Published: 7:38PM Saturday June 02, 2012 Source: ONE News

New Zealand's presence at the Queen's jubilee got a boost today with the launching of a hand-carved kauri waka taua on the river Thames.

The craft's arrival was thanks to a concerted last ditch effort by officials and Maori to convince event organisers that the vessel is safe.

The one-tonne waka taua was shipped to London from its home in a Dutch museum to help lead a procession of one thousand boats as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

"Waka taua were used to bring all the chiefs to the signing of the Treaty in 1840," said waka enthusiast Robert Gabel from London.

"I think it's very appropriate that the waka taua is still used today, and to let our Crown partner know that we're still here."

Northland resident Chappy Harrison helped build Te Hono Ki Te Aotearoa, and is now kaihautu, or captain, of the waka's 14-strong crew. 

"I've got this quiet confidence in the crew, we've prepared well, we've trained well. The boys are fit, the boys are keen," Harrison said.

"We've done the work enough to know we are here to do the business."

Earlier this year the waka was banned from taking part in the event and it took a huge effort to overcome Britain's health and safety bureaucracy so the vessel could join the royal retinue.

After some alterations requested by the organisers the waka was welcomed into the event.

Replica whaling boat the Swiftsure, built by Blenheim man Ron Perano, is the only other New Zealand vessel to be selected to appear in the massive flotilla.