13 Jan 2023

Te Matatini Festival set to return after four-year hiatus

4:57 am on 13 January 2023
Powhiri for Te Matatini at Waitangi Park 20 February 2019

Pōwhiri for Te Matatini at Waitangi Park on 20 February, 2019. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Te Matatini Festival organisers are hopeful for the success of the national kapa haka competition, which is back on for the first time in four years.

It is usually held biennially, but Covid-19 forced it to go on hiatus since 2019 - the longest break since the competition's inception in 1972.

Te Matatini chief executive Carl Ross said the hiatus had ramped up excitement among performers.

"Some of [the performers] who've hung up their piupiu are trying to get back on that stage again, because it's just been too long. Everyone's gasping to get on the stage and perform.

"I mean, over four years that's taken its toll on a lot of teams, because the whole enviroment has changed."

The pandemic and increases in the cost of living had affected many teams, but that had not stopped performers from wanting to get on stage and showcase their heritage, Ross said.

"The fiscal enviroment that we're currently in at the moment that's had its impact ... [but] this is our chance to be standing on that stage and be proud of who we are, and for Matatini at this time to be part of the rebuilding of this nation after the pandemic that we've had is just absolutely fantastic, perfect timing."

Still, there were precautions in place in the case of a Covid-19 outbreak, he said, including testing for the 300 volunteers working at the event and a separate entrance for kaumātua and kuia.

The competition will run from 22 to 25 February.

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