Iwi festival attracts thousands to Dunedin

8:25 pm on 20 November 2015

Ngāi Tahu Māori from around the country are gathering in Dunedin to celebrate their identity and culture.

Visitors arriving at the Ngāi Tahu biennial hui a iwi in Dunedin. Among the crowd is Tā Mark Solomon wearing a korowai to the left.

Visitors arriving at the Ngāi Tahu biennial hui a iwi in Dunedin. Among the crowd is Tā Mark Solomon wearing a korowai to the left. Photo: RNZ / Leigh Marama McLachlan

Dunedin is hosting this year's biennial Hui-ā-Iwi gathering, and is also running a range of Ngai Tahu events as crowds of thousands were expected to come to town.

A spine-tingling pōwhiri at Dunedin's Town Hall at midday welcomed descendants from far and wide back to their tūrangawaewae, or their home turf.

The warm sun greeted hundreds of people, happy to get together to celebrate being Ngāi Tahu.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu dished out $36.6 million to iwi members, that's $355m all up since it settled its treaty claims in 1998.

Ngai Tahu head Sir Mark Solomon

Ngai Tahu head Sir Mark Solomon Photo: Otakou Marae

But today it was business aside for rūnanga chair Sir Mark Solomon.

"Every two years now we have a hui ā iwi where the business side is restricted to one hour on the stage, and then it's get off, because it's all about whakawhanaungatanga [nurturing relationships]."

"We're also running some wānanga on different subjects to get our people's views, but really it's about getting together with the whānau."

Events included wānanga, kapa haka performances, te reo Māori awards and a strong-line up of Māori bands and artists.

Donna Matahaere-Atariki, who heads Ōtakou Rūnaka, has spent the best part of the year organising.

"We've got our marae, but also the city is our landscape. And the city is our place. So it's about a sense of place," she said.

"It's about Ngāi Tahu standing up knowing that our identity is so linked to our whenua. So it's really about saying this is our footprint. This is who we are."

Otago institutions support Ngāi Tahu festival

Dunedin Town Hall - one of venues hosting Ngāi Tahu festival events.

Dunedin Town Hall - one of the venues hosting Ngāi Tahu festival events. Photo: Wikicommons

Dunedin city is backing the festival too.

The Otago Museum, Dunedin Public Art Gallery and the library were all hosting special Ngāi Tahu events.

Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene said it's all about celebrating 'Ngāi Tahutanga'.

"Celebrating the activities and achievements of the tribe. But also to acknowledge the haukainga here who are putting it on here in Ōtakou, Puketeraki and Moeraki."

"It's just wonderful to get together with all the cuzzies."

The iwi announced today its new chief executive of Ngāi Tahu Property, David Kennedy.

Ngāi Tahu Property chief executive David Kennedy.

Ngāi Tahu Property chief executive David Kennedy. Photo: Supplied

Mr Kennedy knew the Auckland housing market - an area the iwi was keen to invest in.

The Hui ā Iwi festival wraps up on Sunday.