Organisers of Auckland's 37th Polyfest have brought in top kapa haka judges to help raise standards on the Maori stage.
The Maori and Pacific secondary schools cultural festival features 195 performing groups from 58 schools.
Festival director Tania Karauria says the Maori stage, which will see 42 teams competing, has a judging development programme this year.
She says judges from the national Te Matatini festival will be on the panel to help younger judges improve.
Tania Karauria says having very experienced judges will also help the top four groups when they compete at the national secondary schools competition in July.
The festival's popularity is creating some unusual challenges, Ms Karauria says, including how to get one Tongan group with more than 150 performers on
to the stage.
The Polyfest runs from Wednesday until Saturday at the Manukau Sports Bowl, with more than 9,000 Maori and Pacific Island students performing on six different stages.