Memorial paddle-out to honour men who drowned

A pou marks the site where Kereta Tatana (24), of Ahipara, Northland, and Wharerika Popata (30), of Windsor, North Otago, died this week. Te Runanga o Moeraki has placed a rahui on the Kakanui coast where the men drowned for two weeks, as a mark of respec
A pou marks the site where Kereta Tatana (24), of Ahipara, Northland, and Whererika Popata (30), of Windsor, North Otago, died this week. Te Runanga o Moeraki has placed a rahui on the Kakanui coast where the men drowned for two weeks, as a mark of respect for the families and to acknowledge the deaths. Photo: Supplied
Local surfers have organised a memorial paddle-out for the two men who drowned at Kakanui, North Otago, this week.

Waitaki district councillor Jeremy Holding, speaking on behalf of the surf community, said ''anyone who feels like they've got any connection to the water'' was welcome to join the traditional acknowledgement of a death in the water on Sunday.

Kereta Tatana (24), of Ahipara, Northland, and Whererika Popata (30), of Windsor, North Otago, were swept off the rocks while gathering seafood in heavy seas and died below Harbour Tce, at Kakanui, on Tuesday.

One of the men was found dead by a rescue helicopter that night and one was found dead by a surfer who helped get the victim on to a boat so he could be taken back to shore.

Police thanked the community for their efforts in the search for the men when they confirmed the pair were dead about 8.30 that night.

The surf community wanted to acknowledge all those involved in the incident, and especially honour the family, the friends and the lives of those who were lost, Cr Holding said.

Kereta Tatana
Kereta Tatana
''It's a reminder of how much the ocean gives, but it can take away. We're in the sort of district where we use the water all the time - with the river, fishing, with the sea, diving and surfing.''

He said Carl Skivington, of Kakanui, started talking to the ''local surfers'', and the idea spread from there.

Sam Pathe, of Waimate, had offered surfboards to those who wanted to join.

With a rahui in place in the area Mr Pathe had contacted Te Runanga o Moeraki, and had received approval for the memorial.

A Waitaki Boys' High School teacher, Nigel Ryburn, had organised pupils from the school to perform a haka, ''tika tonu'', at 10am on the day.

Wharerika Popata
Whererika Popata
The surfer who found one of the dead brothers, who has declined to comment on the incident, would take part on Sunday, Cr Holding said.

''It could be a time of prayer, it could be a reflection on memory, it could be a celebration of the ocean - it could be different things for different people on the day,'' he said.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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