IronMaori swim leg can­celled

Pol­lu­tion closes pond to event

Napier Courier - - News -

Hawke’s Bay’s rep­u­ta­tion as a prime venue for mul­ti­sports is un­der se­ri­ous threat af­ter the 10th an­niver­sary IronMaori triathlon swim sec­tion was can­celled be­cause of Napier’s Pan­dora Pond pol­lu­tion.

Meka Whaitiri, Ikaroa Maori MP, was on hand as a sup­porter when com­peti­tors were or­dered from the wa­ter about 6am on Satur­day, turn­ing the swim-bikerun event into a run-bike-run.

Meka, a for­mer IronMaori com­peti­tor, says the can­cel­la­tion was a “bloody dis­grace” and em­bar­rass­ing. Many other iwi would jump at the chance to stage IronMaori, she says.

If the on­go­ing prob­lems with the pond meant or­gan­is­ers could no longer guar­an­tee a suitable site for the swim leg then it could pos­si­bly be staged else­where, de­spite its strong links to Ngati Kahun­gunu.

She says or­gan­is­ers had shown in­cred­i­ble loy­alty in grow­ing the event from some­thing ini­tially vi­su­alised as a health-kick to get Maori “off the couch” to be­com­ing an iconic Hawke’s Bay event to be com­pared with Art Deco Week­end in Napier and the Horse of the Year Show in Hast­ings.

The last-minute scrap­ping came as more than 600 en­trants pre­pared for the swim leg.

Or­gan­is­ers recog­nised there had been in­suf­fi­cient im­prove­ment in con­di­tions af­ter Hawke’s Bay Re­gional Coun­cil warn­ings that test­ing on Thurs­day made it un­suit­able for swim­ming.

Many of those do­ing only the swim were sent scur­ry­ing for shorts and run­ning shoes.

Over­all win­ner and in­ter­na­tion­ally-ranked en­durance com­peti­tor and triath­lete Dou­gal Al­lan, who be­came the event’s first “Ngati Pakeha” win­ner — with vic­tory by 20 min­utes over run­ner-up Fred Housham, of North­land iwi Ngati Kahu — says while the can­cel­la­tion of the swim was dis­ap­point­ing, his first IronMaori was a “fan­tas­tic” event, he was im­pressed by the way en­trants ac­cepted the an­nounce­ment, and he will be back.

In an in­ter­view on a spon­sor’s Face­book page, he said: “There was a lot of dis­ap­point­ment, but a lot of un­der­stand­ing on why that de­ci­sion had to be made. It was a de­ci­sion that had to be made for the safety of the peo­ple.”

Wanaka-based Dou­gal, 33, had not had the event on his radar un­til it was sug­gested by friend Piripi Rangi­haeata, of Ma¯ ori cre­ative agency Waha.

Dou­gal has com­peted in Canada, Europe and China, but said: “I can hon­estly say IronMaori has left a bit of an im­print.”

Napier mayor Bill Dal­ton says the es­tu­ary in which the pond is formed has long had its prob­lems, par­tic­u­larly af­ter rain, but multi-agency plans are be­ing made to re­store it as a habi­tat for ma­rine life and seafood, as well as mak­ing it a sus­tain­able recre­ational amenity.

It in­cludes re­mov­ing farm­ing close to the shores of La­goon Farm, which the coun­cil owns and part of the bound­ary, and Bill says some of the ef­fects will be in place by the time IronMaori is staged again in De­cem­ber 2019.

The Tre­mains cor­po­rate triathlon in March had to do away with its Pan­dora Pond swim, and the city coun­cil’s own Splash ‘n’ Play, free-use in­flat­able play­ground on the pond had to be shut down be­cause of pol­lu­tion is­sues.

PHOTO / WAR­REN BUCK­LAND

Waka ama pad­dlers braved the pol­luted wa­ters but swim­mers in the IronMaori event were kept out.

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