It was our commitment, said Puna, to have her back in the water, and with the help of the people of the Cook Islands and a number of other organisations, as she is an essential part not only of our voyaging culture and history but more importantly, our future aspirations for Marae Moana.
Last week, PM Puna visited the refurbished Vaka Marumaru Atua in Auckland, New Zealand with Kevin Iro representing Nia Tero, Greg Chu from Matson Shipping, captain John-Reid Willison from Te Toki Voyaging Trust and Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders.
In September 2017, a fire ravaged one of the hulls as Marumaru Atua was moored in Avatiu. Maritime Cook Islands surveyor Robin Williams recommended in his report that a new hull be built.
Desperate to have her restored, a Givealittle.com page was set up and despite efforts by the Cook Islands Voyaging Society to raise the funds, the target was too large a sum to meet by donations alone.
Through the Cook Islands government grant and Nia Tero grant, the restoration was able to proceed.
Captain John-Reid Willison and the crew of Te Toki Voyaging Trust were instrumental in assisting the Society in disassembling Marumaru Atua and preparing her for shipping to New Zealand.
Willison flew down to Rarotonga in December 2018 to lead the team. The rebuild in New Zealand was made possible with the assistance of Matson who kindly sponsoring the shipping of the remaining hull and parts of the vaka to Auckland in December 2018.
Lloyd Stevenson, a reputable boat building company in New Zealand, was contracted to build the new hull which commenced in December 2018. Lloyd Stevenson have the contract with Okeanos Foundation the construction of the smaller Vaka Motu under the supervision of Cook Island captain Peia Patai.
Marumaru Atua was gifted the people of the Cook Islands in 2012 by the Okeanos Foundation in recognition for the Cook Islands’ contribution to the Te Mana O Te Moana Voyage, said society secretary Cecile Marten.
Marumaru Atua has sailed over 20,000 nautical miles through the Pacific with the fleet of seven vaka to highlight the health of the Pacific Ocean, our home. To ensure that the vaka meets our Cook Islands maritime safety standards and insurance requirements, she said, it was imperative that the vaka was rebuilt to the highest standards and under the guidance of boat building experts with the leadership of Patai.
Nia Tero, a new conservation nonprofit dedicated to helping indigenous people efficiently manage the environment, agreed through a very generous grant to fund the installation of two new bio-fuel engines at Lloyd Stevenson’s and a team of volunteers worked alongside Patai and with Lloyd Stevenson to restore, relash and reassemble Marumaru Atua at their yard.
On May 3, after a short blessing from Matua Hoturoa Kerr from the Te Toki Voyaging Trust, she was returned to the ocean and has since been undergoing rigorous sea trials before the sail back to Rarotonga.
“Budget for the rebuild is now close to $600,000. We are still continuing to fundraise for our vaka. Without the support of our sponsors, the work on Marumaru Atua would not have been possible,” said the Society.
“From all of us connected to this vaka and from the Cook Islands Voyaging Society, we say meitaki maata to the Cook Islands government, Nia Tero, Matson Shipping, captain Patai, and the Te Toki Voyaging Trust for their generous contribution towards the vaka.”