Miss Rotorua to become new bilingual reality series

By Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters

Miss Rotorua 2020 Atutahi Potaka-Dewes / PhotoMark.co.nz


The long-reigning Miss Rotorua pageant will be taken to new heights as it gets set to become a reality series.

The controversial pageant will feature in a new show called Gowns and Geysers by Te Noni Productions, and it will follow the 2021 pageant contestants in an eight-part series for TVNZ On Demand and Māori Television.

Te Māngai Pāho teamed up with Irirangi Te Motu/NZ On Air to co-fund new bilingual productions that will see te reo Māori used across a variety of genres.

This week the co-fund announced $4 million has been awarded across nine projects.

Gowns and Geysers is contracted to have at least 30% te reo Māori but the show's producer Ngahuia Wade says she's all for using as much reo Māori as possible.

"I've never really done English programmes," Wade says.

"Kāre e kore, ka piki ake te reo (So there is no doubt, we will use more Māori language)."

Wade says the series will feature last year's Miss Rotorua winner Atutahi Potaka-Dewes and Te Arawa FM producer and announcer Mercia-Dawn Yates, who are both fluent reo speakers. The show will be directed by award winning reo Māori producer and broadcaster, Tina Wickliffe. And she will be joined by reo Māori consultant and Māori language champion Hemi Kelly - who will also feature in the series.

Kharl Wirepa with Rotorua Lakes Councillor Trevor Maxwell and Miss Rotorua contestants.

Gowns and Geysers will follow 25 women from the Te Arawa region as they compete for the crown but the driving personality of the series will be Miss Rotorua pageant director Kharl Wirepa.

"Kharl is the main character," Wade says.

"He's very colourful, he's controversial, he's just very publicly denounced P and alcohol. And so he's come on his own journey as well. And that's one of the reasons I agreed to do it because I find his story fascinating."

The Miss Rotorua pageant started in 1947 and ran until 1999. It was then relaunched in 2017 when Wirepa took over running it.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase the mana of all of our wāhine," says Wirepa.

"We break away from the very Americanised traditions of how a pageant is run, so we can empower our people."

Miss Rotorua 2021 is set to launch in June.