Memories were made, friendships were forged and lives were changed for the better over four days at the second Canterbury/Tasman Blue Light Waka Adventure.
Thirteen boys from Christchurch, North Canterbury, Blenheim and Nelson, aged between 13 and 16, took part in this year’s waka trip set in the stunning Abel Tasman.
The boys were either known to Police or chosen by their schools. They were accompanied by seven Police staff from Canterbury and Tasman Districts, and a youth mentor from the Nelson/Tasman Pasifika Trust.
Although the boys were all strangers to each other, over four days camping, paddling, learning and playing, they dropped their guards and became great mates, supporting each other both in the waka and on land.
Senior Constable Craig Roberts, South Island Blue Light Waka Trip Coordinator, says these trips are a great opportunity to build positive relationships with peers, Police and Blue Light members.
“All in all it was another amazing, successful South Island Blue Light waka excursion,” says Craig. “These young men were immersed in Māori tikanga and challenged to be the best they can be.
“Over the next few weeks we hope to catch up with the boys and their whānau to evaluate the trip and its benefits, but from the texts and messages we’ve received from parents and kids so far, the feedback is extremely positive.”
You can read Craig's day-by-day activity summary, below.
Those from Christchurch and North Canterbury started with a seven-hour van trip up to Kaiteriteri. Being together in one van was team building in itself. One boy vomited midway through the Lewis Pass but I don’t think it was because of the classic ‘Dad’ music and it certainly wasn’t enough to dampen the boys’ spirits.
The teams met mid-afternoon at Kaiteriteri Beach and after a briefing from our guides, Abel Tasman Waka staff, we hit the water for an introductory paddle. Then we drove to Mārahau Camping Ground where we set up camp then enjoyed a well-deserved BBQ. Before we called it a day, Senior Constable Richard Brunton, Coast to Coast champion, gave a motivational presentation to help gee the boys up and set the stage for the days ahead.
Up at 4.30am to prepare a hearty breakfast for the crew for the biggest paddle of their lives, approximately 20 kilometres to Anchorage Bay. Just prior to the big paddle northbound, the wind kicked up a notch along with some light rain.
One section of paddling, nicknamed ‘The Mad Mile’, is very exposed to rocks, currents and winds, and it was touch and go as to whether it would be too stormy to negotiate. The guides made the call and decided to push on through, and it proved to be a great test for the paddlers. I think it brought them closer as a team, encouraging each other in order to succeed and survive.
Finally, the wakas were berthed in the sheltered, idyllic Anchorage Bay, our home for the next two days. No electricity, no cell phone coverage and cold showers. The afternoon was spent playing touch rugby on the beach, exploring the bay and relaxing. Two of the adults hooked up a couple of kahawai and rig for tea.
Early morning, tāiaha and haka lessons on the beach, prior to a long waka paddle north exploring the many coves, lagoons and estuaries of the Abel Tasman.
An additional highlight was paddling up a narrow inlet at Falls Creek and performing the haka in front of another school group who were walking over a long swing bridge. They subsequently commented to Abel Tasman supervisors that they heard this chilling haka and cries coming from the waka, describing it as breathtakingly awesome echoing up the valley.
Later that day, we tramped through the bush to Cleopatra’s Pool, where the boys enjoyed swimming in the icy water and sliding down a natural limestone slide. In the evening, we had a gas hangi and a quiz night arranged by Senior Constable Ken Terry, plus some night fishing - a few of the boys caught some small sharks.
The team awoke early to a beautiful sunrise and clear skies for the return paddle to Kaiteriteri. There, we were greeted by Abel Tasman staff who prepared a final barbecue on the beach, karakia and farewells before the long drive home.
Group shot photo caption: Back row: Lee Anne Jago (Abel Tasman Waka CEO). Middle row: S/Const Dean Buckley (Blenheim Youth Aid), S/Const Richard Brunton (Papanui School Community Officer), JJ (Abel Tasman Waka guide), S/Const Craig Roberts (New Brighton Youth Aid), Thomas (Abel Tasman Waka guide), S/Const Ken Terry (North Canterbury School Community Officer). Front row: Tevita Koloamatangi (Youth Mentor, Nelson/Tasman Pasifika Trust), S/Const Dave Cogger (Iwi and Pasifika Liaison Officer Nelson/Tasman), Jeremy Faumuina (Kaiawhina, New Brighton), S/Const Barry Campbell (Kaiapoi Youth Aid).