Te Matatini festival postponed to 2023

By Aroha Mane

Te Matatini has again been postponed for another year following a decision made by the governing board today. 

But six Te Arawa groups say they are disappointed and want the festival moved from Auckland.

Te Matatini has decided to postpone the Te Matatini Herenga Waka Herenga Tangata National Kapa Haka Festival until February 2023, after significant discussion and expert advice from Māori health specialists and statisticians given the coronavirus pandemic in Aotearoa.

The festival will remain at Eden Park (Ngā Ana Wai) in Tāmaki Makaurau and all qualifying kapa haka and judges will remain the same as they currently stand.

 “Tiakina te whakapapa, tiakina hoki te kapa haka are paramount and have been at the forefront of all considerations and conversations for the Te Matatini Festival organising committee," Te Matatini chief executive Carl Ross says.

As a result of the new Covid-19 protection framework, all large-scale indoor/outdoor events will require vaccination certificates from all attendees.

“We took into consideration advice from Covid-19 experts, the spread of the virus in Auckland. We also sought feedback from performers and their thoughts. In addition and more importantly, there are very few Māori in Aotearoa who have been vaccinated,” chairman Selwyn Parata says.

Postponement of the festival means regional competitions will not take place next year and all the teams who qualified in 2020 will go through to the 2023 competition. 

'We don't want it in Auckland'

However, for the six Te Arawa representative groups from Rotorua, no matter what the decision was going to be, they think the festival should be moved away from Tāmaki Makaurau. That's because the city is still trying to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, which has them confused and concerned.

Te Arawa regional kapa haka chair Watu Mihinui said Te Matatini put out a survey to groups on whether to hold the competition in Tāmaki by postponing it to 2023. Last month, plans were put in place to counteract the timing of the competition, and if Aotearoa was still at Alert level 2 by Tuesday 14 December it would have been cancelled for 2023 - which then means regional rounds would've started again in 2022.  

Mihini didn't offer an alternative but she says, "We don't want it in Auckland."

"If we do it by the way the Matatini has constructed the venues, that it will be in Aotearoa. But that's not enough time for them to prepare." 

Another year will give teams like Hatea Kapa Haka from Whangarei time to prepare.

Tutor Otene Hopa says, "We of Ngāti Whatua are rearing to welcome the country, on to Eden Park to see our exhibit haka dance. We're are ready to cater to every ihi and wehi from across the country."

"That time to hold the event will be better and will give better purpose to the multitudes that gather. It may be a time where you won't feel the challenges of today."