June 09, 2022
Waka journey Pacific wide for Brightwell
Queen’s Birthday Honours recipient Matahi Avauli Brightwell says his life is a gentle struggle.
Mr Brightwell was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for starting waka ama in Aotearoa, a sport he picked up – along with his name and his wife Raipoia – while he was building the ocean-going waka Hawaikinui in Tahiti.
He’s also known for carving the face of his ancestor Ngātoroirangi on a rock face beside Lake Taupo.
He’s also proud of his Samoan title, which he was given through his association with James Papali’i and the Manukau Outrigger Canoe Club.
“James and I met in 1988 at Rakei Marae where I was having a hui about starting waka ama in Auckland at Ōkahu Bay and he came in with a Samona delegation and he was asked, ‘can you wait, we’re discussing…’ I said ‘No, come in James, what do you want?’ ‘Help me start waka ama.’ I said ‘Yep, I’ll help you,’ so that’s the famous Manukau Waka Ama Club out at Mangere Bridge,” Brightwell says.
His latest struggle along with James Papali’i is a plan to put taro and banana palms into every household in South Auckland..