Waka Ama: Committed to Māori Wellbeing

Anita Taggart works at Regional Public Health, Wellington as a Community Liaison in Porirua.

She is a strong advocate and role model for living a healthy lifestyle, which complements her role in the Healthy Communities team at Regional Public Health.

Anita has attended the national Waka Ama Sprint Nationals for nearly 20 years. In July 2018, she returned home from the IVF Va’a World Sprint Championships held in Tahiti, where her team proudly received a bronze medal in the 1000m Senior Master Women’s division.

Anita’s crew competed at the Waka Ama Sprint Nationals this year, however Anita deservedly took a side-line view after a hard year of training.

‘As a competitive athlete I have to pay careful attention to what I eat and how I train, to ensure I am fuelling my body correctly and not over training,’ says Anita.

‘This includes recognising the importance of resting when your body tells you to and has meant deciding to take a break from sprints.

‘Being in the Senior Master’s division means recognising the importance of training smart to ensure I get maximum potential from my body, without adding unnecessary injuries.’

A family orientated event


The Waka Ama Sprint Nationals were a week-long event held at Lake Karāpiro, Cambridge which was a beautiful setting. The family orientated event was a wonderful opportunity to showcase a holistic health environment allowing parents, grandparents, children and mokopuna to all paddle at the same event.

‘I’ve made lifelong friendships through Waka Ama and have learnt a healthy completeness, which works well in other aspects of my life too,’ Anita says.

‘It has been a smoke free event for many years and more recently become fizz free. This change is a great way to role model drinking water as the cheapest and healthiest choice for whānau.’

Although predominantly of Māori and Pacific Islands ethnicity, Waka Ama includes paddlers from very diverse ethnic backgrounds. Chief Executive Lara Collins and the Board are the drivers for setting a good example and having strong leadership at the top filters down.

Many families bring their own food to the event but there is also an amazing variety of food for sale.

‘Being Māori, food plays a large part of who we are and our culture,’ Anita says.

‘The selection available includes a wide variety of yummy and delicious healthy options; then you have the choice to decide if you want to go healthy or not so healthy.’

Waka Ama NZ recognised for leadership role in promoting Māori health

In a media release on 10 January 2019, Hāpai Te Hauora congratulated the Ngā Kaihoe o Aotearoa (Waka Ama New Zealand) for its commitment to Māori wellbeing during the national championship festival. General Manager Janell Dymus-Kurei says this event is a great example of leadership in Māori health.

‘The organisers have shown a strong commitment to oranga tinana through the promotion of physical activity which is embedded in Te Ao Māori.

‘Through the adoption of a ‘fizz free’ stance, the festival also highlights the importance of the availability of water – wai Māori – to all whānau across the motu.

‘Water quality and the availability of clean water for drinking, swimming and play for our whānau has been a topical issue in Aotearoa in recent years and we strongly advocate for the protection of this valuable resource.’

Read the full media release here