5 Mar 2024

Hurricanes Poua lash out at government in revamped haka

6:25 am on 5 March 2024
Poua haka during the Super Rugby Aupiki.

Poua haka during the Super Rugby Aupiki. Photo: Marty Melville

The women's Super Rugby Aupiki team Hurricanes Poua have kicked off their season with a new haka calling out the coalition government.

Taking the field on Saturday, the kaitāraki (leader) called out "karetao o te Kāwana kakiwhero" or "puppets of this redneck government".

Joining the chant, the team acknowledged He Whakaputanga (Declaration of Independence) , a contract signed between Ngāpuhi chiefs and the Crown before Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and mana motuhake - Māori sovereignty.

The haka referred to Toitu te Tiriti, a political movement that has taken a stand against coalition government policies on te reo Māori and perceived breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and encouraged people to "never fold and never bend".

Haka composer Hinewai Pomare (Te Rarawa, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāi Te Rangi and Tararā) said she wrote the haka after players reached out, adding the segment to the beginning of the original piece written by Te Wehi Wright.

"[They] were feeling the frustration of the current political environment and were looking for some words to really reflect that sentiment and add a bit of spice to the existing haka," she said.

Pomare, a reo Māori advocate and former rugby player, said Hurricanes players wanted to amplify the voices of Māori around the country.

"… we currently have elected officials resourced by right-wing interests who urge the presence of white supremacy.

"You see that, even in the week that's just been and recent weeks. Repealing of the Smokefree law, the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora, multiple pieces of legislation that reflect that this is a group of people who are not for the people." she said.

Renee Holmes in action during the round one Super Rugby Aupiki match between Chiefs Manawa and Hurricanes Poua.

Chiefs Manawa crushed Hurricanes Poua 46-24 in round one at FMG Stadium in Hamilton. Photo: Michael Bradley

Hurricanes Poua prop and haka leader Leilani Perese (Ngāpuhi) said the new haka was intended to send a strong message.

"This is very spicy, and we like it like that. This is exactly what we want to say.

"I felt very empowered, very excited, for this new addition into our haka."

Perese said the reaction from her teammates was encouraging.

"They just got really, really rowdy. 'Let's do this!', 'This is powerful!', at a time like this especially.

"More importantly, my sisters who are not Māori, I sat down with them and explained to them what is going on with our government. All the work our people have been doing for Māori and what the government is trying to do and how that makes me feel. They completely understood. They understand the mamae (pain) we're going through, the anger and frustration. They felt it too," she said.

Perese said she presented the new haka to the team's management "strategically".

"I sent it to management at the last minute. They were like 'go for it. We back you 100 per cent,'" she said.

Preempting any backlash the haka might drum up, Perese said she was holding strong.

"I don't care. I believe in what we're saying, I stand by it.

"I would tell them to shut up. I believe that in rugby, we have a platform where people watch and listen. And why not use our platform to show our people we will never fold? To tell the government that we are stronger than ever, and we will never go down without a war.

"We wanted it to represent not just Māori, but people of all races and cultures. When we say 'taku iwi tuohu kore e!' that means 'what will always last is our people, we will never fold.' Whether we're Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Indian, what have you. I thought it was important for us to say because we've got a lot of other ethnicities in our team. I wanted to make sure it wasn't just about one culture, it's about all of us," she said.

The Hurricanes Poua take on Matatū on Saturday at Sky Stadium in a double-header event with their male counterparts who will face the Blues later that night.

The office of Minister of Sport and Recreation Chris Bishop declined to comment.