Parliamentary team recruits gun paddler



Queen of the Harbour Rachel Clarke is swapping the salty sea for the crystal-clear rapids of the Waimakariri River in next month’s Kathmandu Coast to Coast.

Photo Credit C2C

Accustomed to looking after dignitaries as part of her role in the New Zealand Police, Clarke, a nine-time National Surf Ski Champion, has been recruited by the Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard and former President of the Police Association and now Labour MP Greg O’Connor to fill their three-person team and complete the kayak leg of the iconic event.


“Initially we were hoping to have former National MP Nikki Kaye join us, but with the result of some movement due to the election we were short of someone with their grade 2 kayak certificate,” said Mallard. “So, to be able to entice someone of Rachel’s calibre across to look after the two of us, and maybe make up some lost time will be very beneficial,” he added.


“Paddling white water and a braided river is very different, completely different, to what I’m used to, but the kayak leg of the Kathmandu Coast to Coast has been something on my bucket list for a while now, so I feel really fortunate to have been asked,” said Clarke.


After playing a supporting role on day one, Clarke’s role will be to try and slice through the field on the second day, paddling 70 kilometres from the Mt White Bridge to the Waimakariri Gorge bridge, where it will be Mallards job to complete the final 70k ride to the finish line at New Brighton Beach.


Recently paddling the course for the first time as part of a reconnaissance felt a little uncomfortable to begin with for Clarke, which was vastly different to sitting on top of a surf ski. “I found it really restricting for the first hour or so until I got used to it.”


Interestingly, despite stopping for plenty of conversation ahead of a number of rapids and paddling the river for the first time, Clarke completed the run through in four and a half hours, just less than half an hour off the women’s river record of 4 hours and four minutes.


“I’m probably the most competitive person I know, I did take a sneaky look at the record on the website, but that was about learning the boat and getting used to the rapids etc, not going fast or anything like that.”


“And come the race day it will all be about the conditions, the flow of the river and the weather, how many other boats are in the gorge. While I’m competitive, it’s also about being realistic.”


The Parliamentary team will compete alongside the Aotea College teams from Porirua, led by Judge Arthur Tomkinson. “When Arthur rang me, I had every intention of saying no” said O’Connor, who is a proud West Coaster. “But Arthur’s a very persuasive man and before I knew it we had committed a Parliamentary team. Arthur does a wonderful job mentoring and challenging young people to get out of their comfort zone and if we can support him and his endeavour’s, whilst also getting out of our own comfort zone, then I’m all for it,” finished O’Connor. 


Both Mallard and O’Connor hoped this would be the start of an annual Parliamentary team, which would see members from all parties involved.