By JO-MARIE BAKER and CLEO FRASER
Tauranga is expected to reap up to $6.7 million from the Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival the city will host next February.
Organisers predict the event will attract 15,000 visitors, though the head of Tourism Bay of Plenty has predicted the figure could reach 40,000.
The three-day event will be held at Baypark from February 18-22.
Sport Bay of Plenty kaiwhakahaere (co-ordinator) and event manager Jack Thatcher said 1400 performers would compete for the national title, with teams travelling from as far as Australia.
"It's the biggest Maori event of the year. There will be 30 to 36 teams competing against each other, depending on how many qualify in the regions."
The festival would provide a major windfall for the Western Bay, with thousands of people expected to travel to Tauranga to watch and support their teams, Mr Thatcher said.
"A basic spend for each of those people for accommodation, catering, transport and entertainment over those three days could be between $200 and say $450."
That would inject between $3 million and $6.7 million into the local economy.
But this figure could be much higher if the 30,000 to 40,000 visitors predicted by Tourism Bay of Plenty CEO Tim Burgess attend the event.
"It's one of the biggest events we could hope for," Mr Burgess told the Bay of Plenty Times. "You would be hard pressed to think of any other event that brings in that many people at once to one location. It's going to be awesome."
He said accommodation, restaurants and cafes would get most clientele, although "a big part of it" would be absorbed into the many marae hosting the groups.
"But they definitely won't be able to host everyone coming into the area."
Mr Burgess said the "huge" exposure for Tauranga would be widespread across New Zealand and internationally.
He said the event wasn't just for Maori and that plenty of non-Maori attended.
"In terms of a cultural show and experience, there's nothing like it."
Last year's festival in Palmerston North attracted 100,000 spectators.
President of Tauranga's Motel Association, John Masson, said any increase in people would be a benefit to the 30-plus motels the group represented.
"It will make them all smile," he said.
"That's what we're here for: to provide accommodation and make a living."
This year will be the first time the Mataatua region (from little Waihi to the East Cape) has hosted the kapa haka nationals which have run in their current format since 1972.
Teams comprising 40 competitors are judged on compulsory items such as haka, poi, waiata, Te Reo, plus their costumes, entries and exits and the quality of their male and female leaders.
Mr Thatcher is leading a team of 15 people organising the festival, though ticket prices have yet to be set.
Last year, East Coast kapa haka group Whangara-mai-Tawhiti was named the supreme winner, with Auckland group Te Waka Huia placing second and Opotiki mai Tawhiti, third.