Rugby World Cup Waka Kids Assaulted, Hospitalised – updated

Remember the images of the waka (Maori canoe) being rowed into the harbour at the start of the rugby world cup festivities in Auckland on Friday? Shockingly, it appears that a number of children onboard the canoe were beaten and verbally abused by people in the crowd.

According to a report in today’s Sutff

World Cup waka kids hospitalised

LATEST: Friday’s Rugby World Cup opening turned sour for five young people who ended up in Auckland City Hospital.

They were part of the crew that paddled the 20 waka into the harbour and performed a haka at Queens Wharf.

The group was physically assaulted and verbally abused by people in the crowd, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said.

They had finished their performance and were making their way towards the Hilton Hotel when the large group was separated by a wave of people pushing and running.

The men of the group tried to protect the women and elders and formed a guard by linking their paddles together.

Bottles were being thrown and some of the young women in the group were knocked to the ground… more here

Reports of violence during the opening day have largely been downplayed, the story being released because Pita Sharples made an announcement about it. Our condolences go out to the children involved and their families.

We suspect that this wasn’t the only incident in which children or visitors to the city experienced abuse that day, if you know of other incidents please let us know.

Update

Watch a TVNZ news report about the assaults and see the overcrowding here. More on this story was published by the NZ Herald later in the day

Waka Cup paddler’s ribs broken in ‘cowardly’ attack

“A young woman went from the high of paddling a waka into Auckland Harbour for the start of the Rugby World Cup to the low of being in a hospital bed with broken ribs after being “set upon” by the crowd, an elder says…

…They were still in traditional dress, had bare feet and were carrying hohe (oars), so were readily identifiable.

“There were a lot of young people that were under the influence of alcohol, who then became very aggressive,” Mr Pauhara told APNZ.

“They (the women) were kicked and punched and bottles were thrown at them.”

Three crews of men in front of the women realised what was happening and surrounded the second group, which included older women and children, flanking them to push their way through the crowd to their hotel.

Three were treated there and six taken to hospital by ambulance for injuries including broken ribs, cuts and bruises…” more here in The NZ Herald

However, there is another side to this story, the NZ Herald continued with first hand accounts from people caught up in the crush

“…several people contacted APNZ to say the group was not singled out, and that many were caught in the crush prompted by people trying to get a view of TV screens which were working.

“Lots of people at the waterfront were expecting to be able to watch the waka arrival and the rest of the ceremonies on the big screens, however all the big screens west of the ferry building could not be turned on,” Cristian said. “This caused a big movement of the crowd exactly at the time of the waka paddler’s procession, towards the ferry building (with the only working screens), and further overcrowding of the area in front of ferry building and the Queen’s Wharf. “… there was a lot of pushing and crowd movement.”

Caroline said she was at Queens Wharf with her husband and two teenage boys and got caught in the crush. “A man with the waka crew was very aggressive to the people around. Everyone was getting crushed and he blamed the crowd, who were getting pushed forward,” she said. “What clearly didn’t help was the oars they were holding lengthways, rather than into the air. People were getting crushed against them.”

Anthony said he was in an area where “nobody could move an inch”. “The waka crew came barging through right next to me using their sticks/ores (sic) etc as shields, pushing everyone out of the way. “It was really quite scary, and I’m a strong young guy.” He and friends had to form a barrier to protect three petite, elderly Indian women from the waka crew, who he said were aggressive. “… they were acting like warriors and it was quite embarrassing, being a Kiwi and trying to explain this behaviour to foreigners next to me who were visibly upset.” The overcrowding was the catalyst but the actions of the crew compounded the problem, Anthony said…” full story here

One thing is for sure: there positively cannot be a repeat of this fiasco during the world cup.

The government has announced it is to use Rugby World Cup Empowerment legislation to take control of future rugby world cup festivities in Auckland, for the safety and security of everyone in the crowds we hope it is effective. The last thing the tournament needs is a fatality and there have already been far too many injuries, some of them serious. Read Auckland City hospital overloaded on opening night.