The rain may have dampened the ground and the sails of the moored wakas nearby but it did not dampen the spirits of the hosts and guests who gathered at the Ahuriri inner harbour today for the official Maori opening for the Tremains Art Deco Festival.

While the rain caused the traditional powhiri/welcome to be staged within the Napier Sailing Club, rather than on the quayside beside the Napier-based Te Matau-a-Maui waka, it only served to inspire the resolve of all those who turned out.

From leading kaumatua, naval and Art Deco representatives, mayoralty, community leaders and many of the waka crews - and a cheer went up when Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana took up the guitar at the conclusion of formalities and broke into Side By Side - and turned the vocal volume up when he came to lines "through all kinds of weather...as long as we're together it really doesn't matter at all".

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton reinforced that sentiment in his closing address.

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"Just whatever the weather - enjoy the weekend and have a lot of fun".

Senior kaumatua Haami Hilton and Matiu Eru made the formal welcome to the around 250 people who turned out and Mr Tomoana responded.

He spoke of the "inner soul of the people who left their homelands - they heard the invitations of this land beckoning" and said through time the cultures were shared.

"It has been a collusion of cultures, not a collision," he said.

He welcomed iwi from as far afield as Wairoa and Wairarapa who were present "and we welcome kaupapa of Art Deco - we welcome this occasion."

Napier Mayor Bill,Dalton said in the early years of the festival, now into its 29th year, the Maori component was overlooked.

"Now it is an integral part of it and one of the things that did it was the waka."

Mr Dalton said the festival was now recognised all around the world and that it was important for it to possess the "spiritual launch".

He said the festival, along with the upcoming Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival and the launching of the economic strategy Matariki made for an exciting time.

Today's opening also hosted several waka crew from as far afield as Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti, as there were three tied up alongside West Quay opposite where Te Matai-a-Maui was tied up.

Two from Auckland, including the Haunui, which is a "brother" waka to Te Matau-a-Maui, and one from Tauranga.

As Te Matau-a-Maui Voyaging Trust general manager Wayne MacGillivray explained, they had arrived over the past week as part of the inaugural Te Herenga Waka cultural festival which had been staged to tie in with the Te Matatini Festival which kicks off next Wednesday and runs through until the following Sunday.

More than 60 waka crew were staying in the Bay at maraes and had been staging workshops, focusing on the skills of voyaging and cultural events.

As part of Te Matatini the wakas will take groups of up to 20 kapa haka visitors out for sails.

"It is all about voyagers coming together - all really good and really positive," Mr MacGillivray said.

He said the waka visitors were looking forward to seeing what Art Deco was all about for themselves.