This year the Ngāi Te Rangi descendants from the islands in Tauranga Moana will be putting their first competitive team into the Mātaatua regionals, Te Paringa Tai.
Located in the Bay of Plenty, the members of this haka team affiliate to the islands of Matakana and Rangiwaea situated in the harbour of Tauranga.
"For a long time now, we've considered and contemplated how we could compete at this level. Now, we're finally here, Te Paringa Tai," Bobby Enoka Rolleston says.
The Paringa Tai kaumātua says he is affectionately known as koro or uncle by whānau.
“At home, I'm known as Koro Bobby or Uncle Bobby, but my full name is Bobby Enoka Rolleston. I'm from here and affiliate to the Tauwhao family from Rangiwaea, I also belong to the Ngāi Tamawhariua and Ngāti Tauaiti people.”
Manukura Tane, Julian Roretana says, "The name Paringa Tai reflects the island we live on. The ocean tides surround us at all times; to the left, to the right, in front and behind. It also describes the way in which our kin return home. It was our elder Hauata Palmer who gave this name to represent this team."
"I'm from here, Matakana and Rangiwaea. I belong to the Tauwhao family and most sub-tribes around here," he says.
Roretana says the group are keen to adopt a fresh approach to these regionals.
"This is the first competitive stand for Paringa Tai ki Matakana and Rangiwaea, we're new to the competition although in recent years we have entered a non-competitive team into the regionals to support our other Tauranga teams Tūtara Kauika and Te Aranga."
“Last year, we considered starting a competitive group for us here on the island, primarily to strengthen our Māori language, to learn about our histories, our songs and also to strengthen our speakers on our marae,” Maraeatia Gardiner-Toi-Murray, who is from Matakana and Rangiwaea, says.
"I belong to the Harawira, Gardiner and Murray families,” she says.
Manukura Wahine, Ripeka Murray says, “We on the island are easy-going people, but we fiercely uphold our customs and issues pertaining to the environment. One of our main goals is to visit all the areas of our island so that our people and children know where these places are, so that it may never be forgotten.”
"I'm from this island and its many sub-tribes. I'm also from Ngāti Raukawa,” she says.
Rolleston says the group offers them a way to highlight their struggles.
"One of the real positives forming this group is it gives us an opportunity to tell the world about the injustices here. Presently, it's a huge challenge fighting for our land. We have a responsibility to address this so that the burden isn't left to our future generations to bear," he says.
Roretana is looking forward to the challenge that the regionals present.
“Nonetheless, we'd like to acknowledge all the Mātaatua teams who for a long time have been representing our region at Matatini. Please support us as the newcomers to the competition but watch out,” he says.
"I believe if the mind is true and precise, our customs, language and practices on the marae will endure. And on our beloved homeland, we will hold steadfast to the practices that were handed down to us by our old people," Rolleston says.