VAKA TE AU O TONGA PREPARES FOR 8TH ARTS FESTIVAL

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By Florence Syme-Buchanan

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (May 2, 2000 – Cook Islands News)---Preparations are under way for the Vaka Te Au O Tonga to sail another major voyage later this year.

The traditional ocean voyaging canoe, which has sailed 35,000 miles since being built seven years ago, will sail to New Caledonia for the 8th Festival of Pacific Arts this fall.

The Cook Islands Voyaging Society is also discussing plans for the Te Au O Tonga to head to Australia for the 2000 Olympic Games.

Although the Te Au O Tonga has been invited to be at both the arts festival and the Olympics, there may be a possible clash of dates for the Australia voyage.

The vaka's presence at the festival will add to the reputation forged over the years of being an outstanding vessel, a testament to the abilities of Captain Paiau Pirake and his crew.

The vessel is currently at the Hobsonville Air Base in New Zealand and will remain there until departing for New Caledonia, a voyage that's expected to cost up to NZ$ 30,000 (US$ 14,754).

SOCIETY

Founding member of the Voyaging Society, Sir Thomas Davis, was unanimously voted to again head the national body of traditional sailing at last Friday's annual general meeting.

Sir Thomas had asked to retire, but Society members requested that he remain at the helm for at least another year.

The Society’s vice-president, Paiau Pirake, skippered the vaka to New Zealand in September last year for the Louis Vuitton Challenge. From there the vaka sailed to Gisborne where it was the highlight of the dawn millennium celebrations. That voyage was largely paid for by the Gisborne Millennium Committee.

Te Atutangi Nepia Clamp, who helped build the canoe, was also voted on to the Society committee and will serve as an important contact in New Zealand.

At the request of Captain Pirake, the Society has added the presidents of the House of Ariki and Koutu Nui as ex-officio members on the committee.

Pirake said it is important that the role of traditional leaders be recognized by the Society.

Te Tika Mataiapo, president of the Koutu Nui, and Mokare Mataiapo were elected on to the committee. Secretary General/Treasurer is Tony Manarangi. Other committee members are Mike Mitchell, Tama Tuavera, Joe Rasmussen and Tim and Flo Buchanan.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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