Kōtukumairangi getting ready to be showcased on world stage


Kōtukumairangi usually resides at Okains Bay in a whare waka (canoe shed) on the Ngāi Tahu reserve. It is part of the Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu artworks and taonga collection looked after by the Ngāi Tahu Archive and is in the day-to-day care of the Okains Bay Museum. 

Kōtukumairangi is a waka tangata, meaning a canoe for people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. 

Currently, this waka tangata is getting ready to be showcased on the world stage for the upcoming ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch happening at Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour this month. You may spot kaihoe (paddlers) training regularly around Whakaraupō. 

Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, Rāpaki is working in partnership with ChristchurchNZ and SailGP to bring the event to life. Kōtukumairangi will play a part in welcoming SailGP manuhiri to the shores of Whakaraupō. 

SailGP has an expected local and global broadcast audience of more than 50 million people.



Kōtukumairangi meaning ‘the return of the white heron’ was built in the late 1980s after Ngāi Tahu kaumātua Maurice Pōhio suggested that a Ngāi Tahu waka ought to be part of the Waitangi Day celebrations at Okains Bay. Okains Bay Museum founder Murray Thacker donated three tōtara trees from his property and Pura Parata (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne) organised a Māori Access course to train young unemployed Māori to build the waka. Murray accommodated the trainee carvers who commenced work in 1988 under the oversight of tohunga whakairo (master carver) Iotua Charlie Tuarau (Cook Island Māori). Murray soon took over as instructor and was later succeeded by Nai Paora. 


The carved elements of the waka including the tauihu, taurapa, and rauawa were carved by tohunga whakairo John Rua (Ngāi Tūhoe) with the assistance of Te Naihi Arahanga, Michael Rarere, Laurie Watene, Tony Roumana, Regan Pakau, and Mathew Campbell. On its initial launch on Waitangi Day 1990 manned by a full complement of paddlers, the waka proved unstable on the water. It was too heavy on the sides and the bow rose too far out of the water. 

After this failed initial launch Murray undertook further extensive work over the next decade to make the waka seaworthy. He split the hull down the centre and inserted new timber, substantially increasing both the length and width. The waka was then reshaped and adzed to completion with the assistance of many including a group from Koukourarata who also helped with the collection and lashing of manuka grating for the floor. The tauihu and taurapa were modified to suit the wider ends and the rauawa were lengthened with additional carving added by John Rua. 

Kōtukumairangi was re-launched and formally gifted to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu on Waitangi Day 2000. Since then it has been regularly paddled on Waitangi Day at Okains Bay. The waka has also travelled to Whakaraupō on several occasions including for the centennial in 2000 of the arrival of the First Four Ships, the opening of the whare tipuna Wheke at Rāpaki in 2008, and participation in Tuia 250 in 2019.

Kōtukumairangi was transferred from Kawatea / Okains Bay to Te Ana Marina, Lyttelton by the Lyttelton Canterbury Coastguard and a Rāpaki Whānau vessel, Kaiwaka 11, specifically for the inaugural SailGP Event on Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour.