Te Matatini winners: 'Be true to yourself'

2:08 pm on 2 March 2017

Te Kapa Haka o Whāngārā mai Tawhiti have been crowned champions of the kapa haka world.

Leaders of Whāngārā Mai Tawhiti.

Whāngārā mai Tawhiti leaders Lavinia Winiata and Derek Lardelli Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

There were 47 kapa haka performances over three days at Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival in Hastings.

Over the duration of the festival there were 50,000 spectators, with 15,000 attending on finals day yesterday.

The winning group hails from Whāngārā, a small town on the East Coast north of Gisborne which featured as the location for the 2002 film Whale Rider.

The team is lead by Derek Lardelli, who wrote the new All Black haka Te Kapa o Pango.

Honoured and humbled by the win, Mr Lardelli said for the team's winning performance they decided to have fun.

"We decided to push the kaupapa of Rongokako and obviously with the tune from Moana and things like that running in our favour we managed to push the team to another level."

Crowd at Matatini prizegiving.

The crowd at Matatini prizegiving. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Mr Lardelli said the one message he hoped people had got from their performance was to be true to yourself.

"Stay close to the ancestors, be true to who you are, and make sure that you visit Matatini because it's a wonderful, wonderful expression of who we are as an indigenous people and it stands up and says 'We're still here and we will always be here, because this is where we come from and this is who we are.'"

Mr Lardelli said the team was first on which made it even more difficult to gain a place in the finals.

"My team, I take my hat off to them, they're really, really hard workers and I think that's the key to it, never, ever, ever give up."

Mr Lardelli said it was important for teams to be well rested and to take on board the judge's comments and to make adjustments accordingly.

Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell said Te Matatini was a good political forum.

"Somebody asked me, 'Well, should you keep politics out of Matatini?'

"Actually, politics is at the heart of Matatini because you hear the stories, you hear the korero about the dreams and aspirations of our people, you hear what's on their mind," he said.

"You get to hear what they're thinking about particular topics, about who should be with who and who shouldn't be with who - those sorts of issues are important so it's actually a wonderful political forum in that sense."

The Māori Party congratulated Whāngārā mai Tawhiti and co-leader Marama Fox said their performance was nothing short of spectacular.

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell commended Ngāti Kahungunu for hosting the event saying they "were exemplary hosts and their manaakitanga was second to none".

The next competition will be held in 2019 in Wellington.