Sixty-five primary schools from across the country were welcomed onto Waahi Pā this morning to signify the beginning of the biennial national primary schools kapa haka competition.
The competition was established by the late Dame Te Atairangi Kaahu in 2000 and today the mauri returned back to where it all began.
The Māori Queen established this prestigious competition to bring together Māori communities from all corners of the country.
Huirama Matatahi (Waikato) says, "It was to gather the people, gather the thoughts, gather the canoes but also to gather the mountains to come together as one. The competition element is there, however, its main purpose is to follow the values of the Kīngitanga and that is to be as one."
Matatahi says the competition has come a long way from when he first took to the stage 19 years ago.
"When we were at the first competitions of this there were only four actions, this, that and that. Now, the children are flying to the heavens."
Rangimarie Mahuta (Ngāti Mahanga, Waikato), who is no stranger to the competitive side of kapa haka, adds, "I hope the groups just be themselves, be Māori but be themselves."
Despite the competitive nature of this competition, it is also an important acknowledgement of tamariki Māori.
"Its main purpose is to acknowledge Māoridom, secondly it's to acknowledge our Māori children. This week is about the children so that they succeed in the realm of Hine Rēhia and Tāne Rore," says Mahuta.
Matatahi says, "The children are the most important, they are the future of Māoridom."
The five-day competition begins tomorrow at the Claudelands Arena in Hamilton.