Vandalism devastates community

The Tuakau community is devastated after Waka Tangata o Te Awhinamai Te Toki ki Tuakau had their canoes destroyed in an act of vandalism. Photos by Rosie Bennett/Facebook.

What is believed to be an act of vandalism to three waka ama (outrigger canoes) has caused a community outcry, with many stating it as ‘disgusting and senseless.’

On Wednesday 1 November, Waka Tangata o Te Awhinamai Te Toki ki Tuakau President, Rosalie Ellis, received the call that their three waka had been burnt where they were being stored in the Les Batkin Reserve.

“I just couldn’t believe it. These are fiberglass canoes, and my understanding is that it is pretty hard to set fire to. I’m not sure what they were trying to achieve, but one thing is for sure, they have really hurt our kids.”

The club was established in 2012 and the three waka were their pride and joy. Two were donated by Tainui and Watercare, while the other was extensively fund raised for.
Rosalie explained that they had always stored their waka beside the river, and had never had any problems in the past.

“They’ve been stored there for years, and we were in the process of organising proper storage with Council. Awhinamai means ‘to help,’ and that was our aim—to provide an outlet for our youth to enjoy. We had a perfectly good location, and a river that was available to use. We are just beginning training for our season, and now this selfish act has taken our plans for the future away from us. It really is heartbreaking,” said Rosalie.

Since learning of the vandalism, members of the Tuakau community have taken to social media in hope that someone may come forward with information for the Police.
“We have received so many calls asking how they can help, and we really appreciate the support from our community. We have even had a Givealittle page set up. Our community is amazing,” said Rosalie.

It has been estimated that each canoe will cost between $16,000 and $17,000 to replace.

Police believe the incident occurred between 3am and 6am and are still investigating. Anyone who has information that could help their investigation are asked to contact Detective Senior Sergeant Aaron Proctor from Counties Manukau Police on 09 261 1321. Alternatively, information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

To donate to the cause, visit: www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/helpuspaddle

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