Maori plug youth physical activity

Southern Maori are using Waitangi Day activities in Invercargill to help get the region's youth into physical activity.

The waka ama fun day was launched on Oreti River yesterday as three southern Waka Ama groups took novice paddlers onto the water to experience the sport firsthand.

Ngai Tahu kaumatua Michael Skerrett said the Waka Ama Waitangi Fun Day was a success and he hoped it could continue in years to come.

"It's good to get the young ones interested in sport to keep them from running around the streets. Once they get a taste of it they seem to love it," he said.

Until a couple of years ago tribes took turns to run sports days on Waitangi Day in Invercargill but that no longer happened, he said.

"The waka ama fun day is something we could build on in the future."

Event co-organiser Karina Davis-Marsden confirmed it was set to become an annual Waitangi Day event; a concept supported by Invercargill man Mike Kuiti, who was at the Oreti River with whanau to have a paddle yesterday.

Waitangi Day was best enjoyed with physical activity, he said.

"The active part of it is more my thing rather than sitting around a marae, and the kids enjoy this more too."

A new six-man waka ama was also launched during the fun day on Oreti River yesterday, again with a view towards encouraging youth into physical activity.

Nga Kete Pounamu Charitable Trust chief executive Tracey Wright-Tawha said the new six-seater waka would be available for any groups to use in Southland and the Wakatipu.

It would encourage youth into health and fitness activities and teach them about team pursuits, decision-making and water safety, she said.

The Waitangi Day festivities beside the Oreti River also included games of ki o rahi, a traditional Maori game similar to touch rugby, while clothes and jewellery stalls were on display, Maori language courses were promoted, meat cooked on barbecues and the atmosphere was relaxed.

Riverton also hosted a Waitangi Day event yesterday, with hundreds of people turning out for the 10th annual Waitangi Day Music Fest at the town's sound shell.

The day included a fashion show, performances by kapa haka groups, music by 2012 Smokefreerockquest winners Lazarus Rising and other bands.

In Queenstown, a large crowd gathered to enjoy a peaceful Waitangi Day celebration, which included entertainment, flax weaving lessons and a hangi.

The Southland Times