4 Mar 2015

Thousands gather for Te Matatini

5:41 pm on 4 March 2015

Thousands of people have descended on Christchurch's Hagley Park for the official opening of the Te Matatini kapa haka festival.

Te Matatini

Te Matatini Photo: RNZ

The biennial festival attracts hundreds of performers from around the country, and Australia, to compete for the title of Toa Whakaikuha.

Access archival recordings of the last time Christchurch hosted Te Matatini - in 1986

Nero Martin, a leader of the group Hokianga, said most groups had been preparing for months, so it was special to finally be in Christchurch.

"I guess every performance will have different kaupapa which you know, have a lot of meaning.

"We've obviously got the area that we're coming into Waitaha and everything that's happened four years ago with the earthquakes and obviously there will be some acknowledgment."

Te Matatini

Te Matatini Photo: RNZ

Ahead of tomorrow's first round of the competition, 1800 performers have been busy practising.

Nigo Maruera, a member of the group Kairangi, said the group was the first from the army to compete in the competition and that they were excited to see their hard work pay off.

The competition will feature performances from 45 groups from around New Zealand and Australia and ends on Sunday.

Powhiri in Hagley Park

The four-day celebration of Maori culture and performance began with a powhiri in front of more than 5000 people in Hagley Park.

The manuhiri, or guests, were led into the park by the ratana band, before pounamu was presented to representatives from the 11 visiting regions taking part in this year's festival.

A haka, written especially for the event, was performed by more than 300 local performers and provided a rousing start to the event.

The powhiri was being attended by Ngai Tahu elders and dignitaries, including Maori Affairs Minister Te Ururora Flavell.

Organisers expected the festival to bring about $6 million into the Christchurch economy.

Te Matatini

Te Matatini Photo: RNZ

Te Matatini

Te Matatini Photo: RNZ

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