The government is handing more than a quarter of a million dollars over to the Cook Islands Voyaging Society to help rebuild the damaged Vaka Marumaru Atua.
Finance minister Mark Brown told a press conference yesterday that government would contribute $255,000 to cover the cost of repairing the hull of the voyaging canoe, damaged in a fire in September last year.
Cook Islands Voyaging Society secretary Cecile Marten said she was “overjoyed” with the support and said the assistance would help the society realise the dream of getting Marumaru Atua back into the water.
Brown said the canoe, which has travelled thousands of nautical miles around the Pacific using traditional navigation, was a learning institution and iconic to the Cook Islands.
“It’s something we believe is worthwhile supporting to ensure that we get our canoe back up and running again,” he said.
“We look at this contribution as similar to what the government has done for the schools that have been burned down in the previous years.
“When the schools were burned, the government made contributions to help rebuild and re-establish the schools and we see Marumaru Atua in a similar sort of light.”
A fire broke out on board the vaka on September 2, 2017. It took firefighters several hours to extinguish the blaze in the canoe’s starboard hull and it eventually sustained significant damage totalling $320,000.
Marten said members of the voyaging society had met with Brown two weeks ago and presented him with the total cost of rebuilding the canoe.
She said the society was pleased with the government’s commitment to cover the cost of the hull, which will be rebuilt in New Zealand.
“We are pretty overwhelmed with the government support. It has made it a lot easier for us to raise the rest of the money,” Marten said.
“We have a Givealittle page which has so far raised $13,000. Right now, we have raised a total of $19,000 and we also have a pledge of $20,000 from a couple through Te Ipukarea Society.
“We are looking at another $30,000 to $40,000 and we think we can achieve that. There is another fundraiser in the pipeline.”
Marten thanked the Cook Islands government for their support, adding that they were looking at relaunching the Marumaru Atua in 2019.
Marumaru Atua’s voyages throughout the Pacific have included participation in ‘Te Mana O Te Moana’ (The Spirit of the Ocean) voyage.
Its aim was to reconnect with voyaging traditions, with Pacific communities, and with the ocean, and to spread the message of ocean protection.
Since her return in 2012, the vaka has sailed to Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand.
Through Marumaru Atua, the Cook Islands Voyaging Society aims to educate young people and ensure that the legacy of traditional sailing and navigation, as well as caring for the environment through traditional practices, is promoted.