Waka builder brings craft to Lake Te Anau

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Jason Hoggard, of Te Anau, (left) with waka owner and builder Quentin Roake, of Christchurch, who bought the waka he designed and built to paddle the waters of Lake Te Anau last weekend. Photo: Julie Walls

A CHRISTCHURCH architect brought his waka to Te Anau last weekend in an effort to get waka back on the water.

Waka owner and designer Quentin Roake marries traditional knowledge with today’s technology in his waka design.

Many people enjoyed the free paddle on Lake Te Anau during Queen’s Birthday Weekend with one group making a special trip from Bluff to experience it.

Mr Roake’s goal was to find a way to build waka in numbers, in a modern version which was portable, durable and economical to make.

His quest for a solution involved consultation with tohunga waka (canoe experts) including Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr and Sir Hekenukumai Nga Iwi (Hector) Busby and led to Nga Waka Tangata Kaupapa, a collaborative project to develop contemporary form of waka.

Mr Roake completed a masters degree at the University of Otago, with his thesis looking into the stabilising effects of tauihu and taurapa (prow and stem carvings) on traditional waka.

He used a timber structure and trimmings to transform the fibreglass into a more traditional-looking canoe.

The taumanu (thwarts) were traditionally made of totara.

“You can’t cut down a big totara tree every time you want to make a canoe,” he said.

So, he sometimes substituted macrocarpa as it was of a similar weight.

Mr Roake wanted to perfect the design and production of the hulls’ fibreglass shells, so they become vessels for traditional craftsmanship.

In particular, the distinctive tauihu and taurapa could be roughly cut as blocks and finished by skilled carvers.

“I get excited about the possibilities of these waka in mainstream schools as well as Maori kura (schools). They provide loads of different outlets for re-enlivening culture in a practical way,” he said.

“We can build them at a price point where they are affordable.”

He also saw huge opportunities for the use of waka in tourism and recreational activities.

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