FOUR Ngati Kahungunu kapa haka teams have qualified and will advance to Te Matatini the biggest kapa haka event in the world.
Te Rerenga Kotuku took out the first place position with a strong performance on the day and what appeared to be a crowd favourite with the onlookers.
Following behind in second place was Ngati Ranginui, then Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga in at third, and the oldest and most historic team to compete was Tamatea Arikinui also advancing to Te Matatini.
The regional competition was an opportunity for groups to bring many different themes to the stage, everything from the TPPA to performances dedicated to loved ones.
"There is no doubt that Matatini fever is vibrating throughout the iwi following the regionals," says Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana.
It was a full day of performances on Waitangi Day, an event that saw more than 10,000 people walk through the gates to take part in the festivities at Hastings Sports Park.
With Ngati Kahungunu being named next year's host of Te Matatini the excitement has been building and saw the region host its largest regional competition to date.
Fourteen teams took to the stage giving it their all at the kapa haka event organised by Te Runanga Arts and Culture Board.
"We've really seen an increase in the number of Ngati Kahungunu lifting their kapa haka game in our region and more groups are participating," says Narelle Huata.
It also saw the return of Te Rangiura o Wairarapa who have not had a team at this level in a decade.
With the efforts of Irihapeti Roberts, the group came together last year to help former Kura Kaupapa Maori o Wairarapa students and their families connect with their Maori culture through performance.
For their efforts, the team was awarded second place for their whakaeke or opening routine.
The more than 30-strong group included Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox and hometown girl of Wairarapa giving it her all with the group too.
"I wanted to support this group, Te Rangiura o Wairarapa, a group born from the children and former students of TKKM [Te Kura Kaupapa Maori] o Wairarapa. They are the ones who composed all the songs. It's just awesome!"
¦February 22 - 26, 2017 will mark Te Matatini hosted by Ngati Kahungunu and held at the Hastings Sports Park, an event expected to attract more than 10,000 people a day.