Ducks, caravans and kai cookers

The Thomas whānau have always returned home to Waihao for the duck season, to replenish their larder and to take ducks for those who do not get the opportunity to hunt. So it was initially sad news for us to hear that the marae had been booked out by the South Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association at the start of the season. We have hunted ducks in the same location for many generations and it looked as though the annual trip would have to be called off.

Our manager Steve Boyd had arranged the Caravan Association rally, but he immediately invited us to come along and join them, so that we could once again return home for duck hunting. We happily accepted his invitation.

When we heard that Steve wanted to formally welcome the association members onto the marae, we decided to come home early to support the Waihao whānau, and from the moment, it was one of the most enjoyable Waihao experiences I have had for many years.

Fifty members of the Caravan Association were travelling in twenty-five motor homes. These manuhiri were welcomed on by our kaikaranga Cis Te Maiharoa-Dodds and Wendy Heath, while the pōwhiri was conducted by Tewera King. Maureen Te Maiharoa, Graeme Lane, Lynn Davis and four members of the Thomas whānau joined the welcome, which was followed by refreshments and a chance to chat to the visitors.

Despite major refurbishments at the marae (our kitchen is currently gutted and totally out of bounds), the visitors were able to stay on site because they were completely self-contained.

Steve Boyd, assisted by his wife, Derylie, took on a dual role as both the Waihao manager and rally organiser for two days. The association members made our Waihao whānau very welcome and some of us joined in their activities. We were invited to partake in their meals which were magnificent. The Saturday meal consisted of a hāngī cooked in a kai cooker. This particular meal was fantastic and a tribute to Graeme Lane’s catering skills.

The Waihao whānau were also invited to join in the Friday evening entertainment. This consisted of a quiz evening organised and run by Steve and Derylie. The Waihao team – Maureen Te Maiharoa, Graeme and David Thomas Jr and Chantel Lamb – won two of the four rounds but chose to forfeit the second prize they won in favour of the next team.

On Saturday evening, Steve organised a short slide and movie presentation relating to the Waihao exhibition, which was planned by myself, presented by Wendy Heath and created by Steve Boyd.
The presentation was runner-up to the Nationwide Small Top Town exhibition award in 2010. I had not seen Wendy’s presentation before then and she must be congratulated in retrospect for the superb job she did researching and presenting it.

Steve spoke about Waihao and its history and staged a delightful quiz based on our manuhiri’s knowledge of the Māori language.

On Sunday, the association’s weekend raffle was drawn and each of the Thomas whānau present won a draw; but in fairness, young David asked for a redraw so that someone else got an opportunity to win.

At the conclusion of the meeting several of the Caravan Association members voiced a desire to return next year and the Thomas whānau agreed that the united gathering made the duck hunting open weekend one of the most memorable yet. As for the ducks, it can only be said that ‘a few less will fly the sky,’ as the season began very successfully – for both the Thomas whānau and the wider South Canterbury district.

Nā Graeme Thomas.

Chantel Lamb and David Thomas Jnr getting ready for the hunt.