New Napier home for proposed $5 million Waka Hub

A new home for Napier’s proposed Waka Hub could become a landmark at the city’s northern gateway.

The Waka Hub project was first announced in 2018 and is estimated to cost about $5.5 million.

A vacant site next to Napier Sailing Club near Pandora Rd has now been chosen as the preferred site for the hub in Napier’s inner harbour.

The project was initially planned for another section of the harbour, Iron Pot, but that location has been scrapped due to the high cost.

A final design is yet to be compiled but the plans include a floating pontoon for the 22m-long ocean waka Te Matau-a-Māui, a building including for educational programmes, a public space for ceremonies and gatherings, and toilet facilities.

The renowned Te Matau-a-Māui waka is owned by Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc and was launched in 2009.

Since its launch, it has sailed well over 80,000 nautical miles, the equivalent of going around the world more than three times. When not voyaging throughout the Pacific, it is used to deliver educational experiences for youth, schools and community groups.

The Napier City Council, Ātea a Rangi Educational Trust (which operates the waka), and Napier Sailing Club agreed in principle last month on the new site, ruling out another site on the other side of the harbour.

The project has been included in the council’s draft Long Term Plan (LTP) and could be built by 2026, if adopted in the final LTP document in June.

The $5.5 million budget for the project includes $2.2 million from the government and a further $3.3 million which “has not yet been approved by council”, according to a council report.

“In order to appropriately support the kaupapa of wakatere waka (celestial navigation) and develop the Waka Hub into the tourism destination that was intended, the full project budget of $5.5 million will be required,” the report read.

Ātea a Rangi Educational Trust chairman and waka navigator Piripi Smith said the waka needed a new home.

It has been based at the same wharf in the inner harbour for over a decade, without facilities for educational programmes or even to service the crew.

“It is over 10 years that the waka has been in that location and almost on a weekly or monthly basis it has been getting vandalised, or crew abused - and all sorts of stuff.

“So we are really rapt it will be going to a secure location with a floating pontoon.”

He said the fixed wharf the waka was moored to at present caused damage to the vessel in bad weather.

“We are really happy we are working together with Napier City Council to get a new berth,” he said. “It also gives us a chance with more space to deliver programmes to schools.”

He said being next to the sailing club would be beneficial, as both groups provided sailing and navigation programmes for youth.

Smith said the new location could also become a landmark at the northern entrance to Napier, where people stopped and learnt about the waka’s history.

Gary Hamilton-Irvine is a Hawke’s Bay-based reporter who covers a range of news topics including business, councils, breaking news and cyclone recovery. He formerly worked at News Corp Australia.

- NZ Herald