19 Mar 2020

Te Tai Tokerau regionals to proceed without big crowds

12:38 pm on 19 March 2020

An upcoming regional kapa haka competition will go ahead for the first time ever without spectators.

Photo of Kapa Haka perfrormers at Inside Out Arohata christmas concert

Photo: Supplied

It is one of many events on the Māori calendar which have been strictly regulated or canned amid the threat of Covid-19.

The roar and energy of the crowd are something performers at the highest level of kapa haka know well.

But performers like Te Amohaere Morehu will need to adapt to an empty audience when they take the stage at the Te Tai Tokerau regionals next week.

"It's going to be very different and very interesting to see how all members and all groups react to the silence," she said.

"We're so used to feeding off the energy that the audience provides on the day and at the time, when there's a solo there are massive claps and you definitely feed of that."

Te Tai Tokerau kapa haka will perform only in front of a panel of judges, and each group will leave the venue immediately after their performance.

Kaihaka will also perform on the ground rather than on a stage to avoid touching rails.

Committee member Paulina Hopa said people's safety was paramount.

"We get about 2000 turnover when we have our regionals normally but we're just trying to minimalise the number of people who will actually be there," she said.

"There will be the judges and the people servicing the judges and the scrutineers at the back.

"At the centre of everything, he aha te mea nui? He tāngata, he tāngata," she said.

But haka lovers won't miss the action as performances will be live-streamed.

The Aotea Regional competition this weekend is still going ahead, but only the groups, officials and media crew will have access to the venue.

The biennial Te Hui Ahurei a Tūhoe festival in April, which was expecting up to 15,000 attendees and 48 kapa haka groups, has been cancelled.

Festival chair Matt Te Pou said it was a hard call to make.

"Not an easy decision knowing that we're so close," he said.

"At the end of the day there's a lot of uncertainty within the iwi with the Covid-19. We feel for all the volunteers who have worked hard and the kapa haka groups, most of them have been building up over the last 12 months.

"It was a heavy decision but it was a no-brainer. The decision had to be made."

Iron Māori Taupō this weekend and Secondary School Waka Ama Nationals later this month have also been cancelled.

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