Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai have been crowned the Te Arawa kapa haka regional champions. This is a first for the small group from Te Rotoiti. Te Ao has this exclusive behind the scenes report.
Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai remain humble in triumph.
"We're happy about this campaign, humility was the key. We didn't want to be complacent as there was a lot of work to be done," Renata Curtis of Te Arawa says.
Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai took out the Te Arawa kapa haka regionals for the first time on Saturday, with a completely new bracket.
"You can't come with arrogance. This is a new day, a new beginning," she says.
Tūkiterangi Curtis of Ngāti Rongomai says, "It's a new year, with a fresh spirit and abilities to revive our tribe of Ngāti Rongomai."
Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai placed first-equal in the entrance, in the traditional lament, in the poi, the haka and the exit items.
Driving their emotions was former original member, Himiona Herbert, who died suddenly of a brain aneurysm late last year in his late 40s.
"I'm surprised because he's like a brother to me. It's not often you see Tūki expressing his feelings. However, today has been difficult."
The group was formed in 2013. Tutor and leader, Tūkiterangi Curtis, says the journey has been part of a 10-year strategic plan for their tribe, which came about during their time as students of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo Māori school of excellence under the tutelage of Professor Pou Temara, Sir Tīmoti Karetu and the late Wharehuia Milroy.
"That was one of our goals, so that's why this strategic plan was put in place. This is our seventh year and although it's been a long road, it's all come to fruition," he says.
Despite Milroy's passing in May last year, his influence on the group remains strong. His humility and cheeky nature emulated in their traditional item.
"I thought to myself, yes, the old man's wise words were to remain in humility. But do it with pride and dignity. Be happy and speak more casually," Tūkiterangi Curtis says.
Te Pikikōtuku were runners up at last year's Te Matatini Festival in their finals debut. They will no doubt look to improve on that in Auckland next year.