Waka re­duced to ash

Franklin County News - - FRONT PAGE - PHILLIPA YALDEN AND BRIAR HUB­BARD

A Tuakau waka ama club’s dreams of go­ing to na­tion­als in its beloved waka have gone up in smoke af­ter a sus­pi­cious blaze early Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

Three pre­cious waka were de­stroyed in the fire, dev­as­tat­ing the Tuakau com­mu­nity. Each waka is be­lieved to be around $17,000. Fire­fight­ers were called to the fire in the park on River Rd in the north Waikato town around 5.40am.

The club, Waka Tan­gata o Te Awhina­mai Te Toki ki Tuakau, has more than 150 mem­bers which use the waka ev­ery day. Team leader of the women’s team, Rosie Walker, said see­ing the waka re­duced to a pile of ash was hor­rific.

‘‘It was heart-wrench­ing, I’m still in shock. We have no inkling (of who has done it) - our club is so hum­ble and love­able, there’s no rea­son for any­one to have done this that we know of.’’

The Te Toki Voy­ag­ing Trust, which the club is a branch of, has do­nated two waka to use in the mean time, but with re­gional com­pe­ti­tions be­gin­ning next month, and na­tion­als in Jan­uary, Walker said there was no chance of pur­chas­ing their own waka by then.

‘‘Hope­fully next sea­son we will have new waka. It feels like we’ve lost some­one, a friend. We sit in those waka three times a day for three hours by the time ev­ery­one has trained. We train ev­ery day and we’ve left them there for years and no one has ev­ery touched them or dam­aged them.’’

Walker said the waka were not in­sured, and would be or­gan­is­ing a fundrais­ing com­mit­tee to help the club get back on its feet.

Dev­as­tated lo­cals and club mem­bers posted about the loss on Face­book.

‘‘Wow what can i say...I am so lost for words that this breaks my heart of why such a per­son/s could do this,’’ Pene Cooper posted.

‘‘I hope you are happy with the out­come cause you sure hit the spot. To find out this morn­ing that our beau­ti­ful taonga have been de­stroyed.’’

An­other lo­cal called those re­spon­si­ble ‘‘low lifes’’.

‘‘How will our kids pad­dle now, you don’t re­alise what you’ve done!

‘‘We are all lost for words. How can any­one be so low,’’ Ros­alie El­lis said.

The club has cre­ated a Givealit­tle fundrais­ing page in a bid to re­place to the waka as soon as pos­si­ble. Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about the fire, or who may have seen some­thing sus­pi­cious, is asked to call their lo­cal po­lice sta­tion or phone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Tuakau’s waka ama club is dev­as­tated af­ter three waka were burnt in a sus­pi­cious blaze.

SUP­PLIED

The waka were used ev­ery day dur­ing the sea­son, by the 150 club mem­bers.

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