Huge funding boost has Te Matatini organisers 'jumping up and down'

11:39 am on 19 May 2023
Ngāti Rangiwewehi.

Ngāti Rangiwewehi. Photo: Erica Sinclair / Supplied / Te Matatini

It is the biggest event on the Māori calendar, and over the next two years Te Matatini will get $34 million, up from $2.9 million a year.

The biennial national kapa haka festival received its biggest increase in funding since it first started 50 years ago in the latest Budget.

The financial injection has made many pukana with excitement.

"I'm just over the moon," Te Matatini chief executive Carl Ross said. "I've had to shut my door because my staff are still jumping up and down outside. It's been a long time, it's been a very long time but I think it's timely now and Matatini is in a space where we can grow."

Ross believed the funding boost was an acknowledgement of the significant contribution kapa haka made to Māori communities, and the extra money would give them a chance to expand.

Kapa haka performers and fans around the motu were thrilled by the announcement of extra putea.

Pere Wihongi, who performed for the group Angitu at Te Matatini in 2023, said they were ecstatic kapa haka was in a place of official recognition - but believed this was just a start.

"Although this budget spike for Te Matatini is a huge increase, I don't believe it's actually in the place it needs to be. However, it is definitely a step in the right direction."

Wihongi said funding should go towards younger kids, as that was where the future success of Matatini would be.

Te Pāti Māori had advocated for an increase in funding for Te Matatini, and co-leader Rawiri Waititi said Labour have adopted their policy - but missed a trick.

"This needed to be baseline annual funding for Te Matatini, and we don't want it to be a one off. You could end up with another government and where to from there, they needed to lock this in, give security to te iwi Māori that our culture, that our language, that our people had security moving forward."

Waititi said Māori communities had been using their own "bread and butter" to get their groups to the national stage.

Wihongi agreed, saying there were many financial barriers between performers and the stage - from travel costs, to food and costumes.

"We're committing ourselves to an art and actually a lot of our kaihaka are ending in debt, but if anything we end up richer in culture, we end up richer in community."

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