Nine teams will perform today at the finals of Ngā Kapa Haka Kura Tuarua o Aotearoa - the national secondary schools kapa haka festival, in Hawke's Bay.
Throughout the week, up to 1500 high school students have sung and performed haka and pūkana, with teams today competing to be crowned the national champions.
Destiny Naunau, from Te Wharekura o Arowhenua in Invercargill, performed for her first time.
"It's a really nice atmosphere and everyone being here supporting the kaupapa."
She said her group practised for up to six months, but it was worth it for their 30 minutes on stage.
"It's hard to explain and put into words but it feels like I'm upholding everything our people have been trying to hold on to for so long."
The executive director of Te Matatini, the national Māori arts performing society, Carl Ross said some of the issues the kids sang about were relevant to Māori communities.
"On stage they bring up health issues affecting Māori, how to be a good man and father, and they promote education and still remember the old ways of our old people, so in reality kapa haka is more than a performance it is a way of life for these kids""
The competition started 16 years ago and Mr Ross said the standard of the performances had improved and evolved.
"Our children can say the things they are feeling and talk about the issues they face and this has to have a positive impact on Māoridom and all of Aotearoa.
The nine schools competing today are Ngā Taiātea Wharekura, Te Wharekura o Rākaumanga, Te Manawatahi, Ngā Puna o Waiorea, Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae, Raukura, Te Piringa, Whakatane High School and Te Maurea Whiritoa.