Father, daughter duo share family story of captaining waka as Waitangi Day celebrations begin

Ahead of Waitangi Day celebrations today, a father-daughter duo shared their special bond over their journey to captaining waka.

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This weekend is a time to focus on what's at the heart of the Treaty of Waitangi. Source: Seven Sharp

Ngātokimatawhaorua is an 81-year-old waka, steeped in history. It was commissioned in 1940 to mark the 100th anniversary of the treaty.

The waka can safely transport a whopping 135 passengers..

Joe Conrad follows in the footsteps of his father Nikki, who captained the waka in 1974 when it was renovated for Queen Elizabeth II’s visit.

"The Queen looked down and said, 'Out of all my naval officers in the world, here’s a man turn up in a log I suppose, parked up beside my royal yacht and disembarked.' So in her words, Dad became a captain of a Royal Navy."

Ngātokimatawhaorua was designated Her Majesty’s ship.

“My involvement with Ngatoki is probably getting to the 40-year mark now so I don’t really want tell you how long I’ve actually been on there in case you know how old I am,” he joked.

During many of those 40 years, Joe's daughter Miri was soaking it all in.

“Me just dreaming to be out on there with them and to be sitting right out there with them and wasn't able to - so I would follow the waka everywhere it went," she recalled.

"When they paddled from Waitangi to Paihia, I’d run along the shore as a young child and meet them.” 

Due to custom, Miri was not permitted to take part, but that all changed with the tides.

Not only did Miri take part, she lead the way for other women.

“I took my cloak off me and wrapped it around her,” Joe said.

Today, Miri has 15 years under her belt as a captain of Te Whanau Moana.

“She's an extension of me. She's my best friend, she's my mate, she's my whanau, but as a kaihautū, it's my role to keep her safe, to keep her active and to make sure I teach the next generation as much as I can,” she said.