Thousands in Rotorua for kapa haka champs

10:23 am on 21 February 2013

Iwi from throughout New Zealand are in Rotorua for the biennial Te Matatini Kapa Haka championships.

From Thursday until Sunday, 41 teams from New Zealand and Australia will showcase the best in singing, choreography and haka.

About 2000 people attended a welcome on Wednesday hosted by Te Arawa.

The iwi is no stranger to hosting the event, but Trevor Maxwell from the local host organising committee said Wednesday is the culmination of four years of planning.

More than 40,000 people are expected to come to the Rotorua International Stadium for the competition.

Te Matatini chairman Selwyn Parata says the event has become significant for Maori and New Zealand as a whole and he is looking forward to watching some superb haka.

He says it's the competitive nature among the different groups that encourages them keep up their standards and perform their best work.

Teams will compete for several awards from Thursday, including the supreme title, to be defended by Te Matarae i o Rehu of Te Arawa.

A Te Arawa warrior gives a wero ( challenge) at the welcoming ceremony.

A Te Arawa warrior gives a wero (challenge) at the welcoming ceremony. Photo: RNZ

A member of Wellington-based team Nga Uri o Tamarau, which is new to the competition, compares Te Matatini to the Rugby World Cup grand final.

Tautoko Ratu describes his team as the equivalent of rugby teams from India or Sri Lanka, while well-known haka teams can be compared to the All Blacks or the Springboks squads.