The Whau River flows between New Lynn and the Te Atatu peninsular. Its path, with a short steep overland connection, provides a portage across the Auckland isthmus. For iwi, this route traditionally provided a natural infrastructure of food, connection and economic production. In the colonial economy the river and portage played a crucial role in the urbanisation of Auckland, as both a transport route for food grown in the fertile land to the south, and as a source of clay. Along the riverbanks numerous brick and pipeworks produced an astonishing array of goods, all shipped along the waterway to the building sites of the inner city. Increasingly used to drain away by-product materials from factories situated on the riverbanks, in latter decades the Whau, like many other urban waterways, has lost this mobilising significance.
The popular Flotilla Whau aims to bring the river back to the attention of local residents. Now in it’s fifth year, it looks set to have more vessels than ever. The flotilla will be led by the historic steamboat Puke (built in 1872) from the New Zealand Maritime Museum. Puke will be joined a wide variety of vessels including waka ama, rafts, kayaks, traditional wooden rowing boats, stand up paddle boards and more.
All small craft that can navigate the river at high tide are welcome to come along and join the flotilla, just so long as your craft is sea-worthy, all on the water wear lifejackets and you register (registration is free and on site from 10:30am). Dress up your boat and yourselves and help make this a colouful celebration of this historically important waterway. The Flotilla Whau launch site is Archibald Park, Kelston.
Those who don’t have a boat also have the opportunity to join in, with some of the skippers offering their spare seats. If you've never been on the Whau River before and would like a seat in a boat, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll let you know if one is available. And to keep those on land entertained there will be art, music and food available on shore. See photos and video from the last few years and keep an eye out for updates on www.facebook.com/flotillawhau/
This year, the Flotilla Whau links the public programme of HEAT: Solar Revolutions, the third Oceanic Performance Biennial based at Te Uru, to the Whau River. The Flotilla Whau is a project by Hoopla: Projects for the Whau, an independent collective that develops public realm initiatives to reconnect the Whau River with its urban environment, thereby prompting new opportunities for its rejuvenation and use. The Flotilla Whau is assisted by the support of the Whau Local Board.
Photograph: Brian Marsom
Saturday 4 March, 12.30pm
Flotilla Whau, Archibald Park, Kelston