13 Sep 2011

Waka crew put in 'life threatening' situations

7:51 pm on 13 September 2011

An organiser of the waka ceremony on the opening day of the Rugby World Cup says some of the performers were put in life-threatening situations by drunken revellers.

More than 100,000 people gathered to watch the arrival of the waka and to view a fireworks' display later in the night.

Niki Tauhara, who led a 150-strong group, says nine crew members were hurt, and six needed hospital treatment, in a melee on Quay Street. He says one women's ribs were broken.

He and another waka leader Waha Tauhara say the police and security guards stood by and watched.

Niki Tauhara says the people involved in the attack were all intoxicated and other paddlers had to step in to stop the situation getting worse.

He says he's waited until now to speak up because his first priority was looking after the injured and traumatised victims.

Mr Tauhara says the police could have been more efficient on the night.

He's thinking about laying a complaint about police inaction, saying performers need to know they can leave venues safely.

Joe Conrad, who was in overall charge of the 700 to 800 waka paddlers, told Checkpoint that the group took the wrong turn and became separated from the other paddlers.

Maori Party MP for Tamaki Makaurau, Pita Sharples, says he is writing to the Government and Auckland mayor Len Brown to try to make sure such things don't happen again.