Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whānau Tahi, from Christchurch, was the first of three schools representing the Waitaha rohe to take the stage on the first day of competition in Hamilton today.
Principal Mark Rangi says, "In one of our songs, we talk about "tamaua te kura huna", so we hope they can bring that through to all of their songs and haka today."
Rangi says it has been a long time coming for the region to make their way to the nationals, particularly as Te Rangaihi, the local regional competition had been left dormant since 2008. Te Rangaihi was revived last year, and three schools qualified to the Mana Kuratahi competition this year, taking their place amongst 59 other schools seeking national supremacy at Claudelands Arena.
"We've been wanting to get to the nationals for a long time. However, with what Christchurch has endured over the past decade, that hasn't been realised," Rangi says.
Male leader, Cambell Codyre (13, Ngāti Porou, Te Whakatōhea) says, "It's exciting to able to stand and represent Waitaha, our school, our whānau and our iwi today."
They've spent a lot of the last few months perfecting their bracket ahead of their debut on the national stage. Manaia Keen, (12, Tainui waka) who is the group's female leader says at times it got annoying "with all the growlings and pressups" but ultimately it was good.
Codyre, said that commitment made them ready to take the stage today in Hamilton, "Yeah we've put heaps of hours into this, and now we get to get the rewards."
While the goal of winning the national title is the ultimate reward for the hours of effort, the goals for the new kids on the block this week are simple,
For Keen, she wants to be able to return home and say, "Yeah I stood on that stage."
Codyre wants to "show the North Island what we in the South Island are capable of doing."
Mark Rangi, is looking forward to his students living up to the schools motto, "Our school saying is "Poipoia ō tātou nei pūmanawa - Making our potential a reality", and we have a lot of potential amongst our students, so we're really hoping to see that come through this week.
The three schools representing Waitaha this week are Te Whānau Tahi and Te Waka Unua who both took the stage today, and Te Pā o Rākaihautu who take the stage tomorrow.