Jacinda Ardern announces $1.75m waka programme

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a $1.75 million waka programme to strengthen the knowledge of Māori and  Pacifika voyaging traditions.

But the welcomed cash injection does little to help waka at the centre of Waitangi commemorations.

The world's largest waka, Ngātokimatawhaorua, is celebrating its 80th birthday at Waitangi this year.

But it's the double hull, waka hourua, that's received a $1.7m gift from the Government.

"This is about a part of navigational history that isn't really funded at all," Ardern announced.

And although funding was welcome news at waka camp today, the Waitangi paddlers won't see a cent of it.

It's a particularly bittersweet announcement for waka captain Joe Conrad, who last year had to pull the leading waka out of commemorations due to a lack of funding.

"My understanding is we have not had those same issues as last year," said Arden.

But Conrad says they had to beg and crawl their way back here this year, and it shouldn't be that hard.

"I sometimes get confused. Why do I have to justify, why does the kaupapa have to justify funding and answer to the red tapes," he said.

The Government's funding announcement comes as crews here prepare for their first Waitangi Day since master carver and voyager Sir Hec Busby died.

Sir Hec led a revival of interest in waka hourua and crews from around the world gathered to honour his legacy today.

"He still walks through our mind and we still hear him grumping from behind the scene," said Conrad.

And with waka programmes now engaging 100,000 children each year, these paddlers want this week to be a celebration of it all.