National | NZ Fire Service

Firefighters take to the water at Waitangi

A group of firefighters joined in as part of the kaihoe at Waitangi to show their commitment to the Māori community.

On Waitangi Day the crew launched their waka from the Waitangi boat ramp and paddled around to Te Tii Bay for karakia and haka.

Fire and Emergency iwi liaison officer and kaihoutu Albert Cash says they’re involved in the kaupapa to get a behind the scenes look into how Waitangi functions and what it means to people of the North.

“It’s such a precious time to commemorate this event for Maoridom," he says.

“It’s about building relationships, and these groups coming together and working together for a common purpose- to support the functions of Waitangi.”

Rural firefighter Naini Heremaia, based at Rawhiti, says it’s about setting an example for tamariki.

“It comes down to walking our talk. If kids can see there are positive role models doing things for their community for nothing it actually gives them hope to strive to be the best the best they can be.”

She says the officers met on a weekly basis to plan the event for months leading up to Waitangi Day.

In the days leading up to Waitangi they took part in marae noho and waka practice.

Heremaia says her favourite part has been getting out on the waka.

“You connect with tangaroa and it just takes you spiritually to another place where you won’t get it if you weren’t on the moana.”

A volunteer in the Rawene fire brigade, Moana Harris brought along her two sons, Takoha and Elijah, to join her as part of the kaihoe.

“It’s a real honour and a privileged to be able to share this with my tamariki, the whole waka noho and the whakawhanaungatanga with all the whānau here.”

Heremaia says the most challenging part on the waka is having a sore arm.

“After being out all day and putting a hundy into it and coming home with no voice.   So, a saying for us kaihoutu or kaihoe is, ‘If you’ve lost your voice then you’ve done you the best you possibly can on the waka’.”