Topic: Health

Navigating waka hourua as a modern health model

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

 investigate the Tairāwhiti (East Coast) philosophy of voyaging and to examine how the Tairāwhiti waka contributes to community health outcomes.

A $140,000 health research grant will be awarded to Ngahuia Mita for a three-year PhD project that will investigate the health benefits of sailing waka hourua.

Mita says it's another path to address the many health issues in Te Tairāwhiti.

The Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Hako descendant says, “There a number of health issues here in Te Tairāwhiti so I think that through voyaging we can improve health outcomes.”

The Health Reseach Council of New Zealand 2019 Career Development award recipient says knowledge of traditional navigation can help to reaffirm identity among Māori youth.

“If the young ones come and learn about the history behind the waka they can find out who they are, so that's really positive for health,” says Mita.

Mita grew up paddling waka ama. Through her Masters at The University of Otago she explored health benefits between the ocean and health.

Her PhD research, "Tairāwhiti waka, Tairāwhiti tangata – Examining Tairāwhiti voyaging philosophies", looks to further develop that body of knowledge by investigating the Tairāwhiti (East Coast) philosophy of voyaging and to examining how the Tairāwhiti waka contributes to community health outcomes.

"We as Māori know that voyaging is great but it only has a minimal presence in research, so I can expand on the research related to voyaging and health,” says Mita.

The investigation will also uncover the wayfinding methods of Te Tairāwhiti navigators from the past through to today.

“If there are other iwi or communities that want to follow this model, to build a voyaging vessel, the research will be available to them,” says Mita.

The investigation will be conducted with Te Tairawhiti Voyaging Trust in Tūranga and will commence in 2019.