With thousands expected to converge on Rotorua today for this year's Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival, The Daily Post senior reporter Greg Taipari catches up with Mauriora Kingi, the festival's longest serving judge.
Mauriora Kingi reckons - if you are wanting to win a popularity contest, don't become a judge at a kapa haka festival.
With more than 30 years' experience at judging kapa haka at both a national and regional level, there is one thing he has found out.
"Well, the good old judges' saying is; you become friends to nine groups and enemies to the other unsuccessful ones.
"You know 41 groups and only nine make it into the [finals]. So for a team to make it into the top nine is an achievement. But for those teams who weren't successful, well ..."
Mr Kingi is the longest serving judge at this year's Matatini 2013 and there hasn't been too much he hasn't seen. On one such occasion a group wore lycra while performing, which didn't impress the judges at the time.
The director of kaupapa Maori at the Rotorua District Council, Mr Kingi is one of 31 kaiwhiriwhiri (judges) from throughout the country tasked with deciding who will win the Duncan MacIntyre Trophy awarded to the overall winner.
At times it can be a thankless task but he says it is something he loves to do although he sometimes would like to see if the piu-piu still fits.
"I've never lost the interest, I've never lost the passion. I mean sometimes I think 'geez I should be on the stage strutting my stuff'. Rather than pushing a pen, I should be pushing a mere around," Mr Kingi said.
"But that's always been my thing with the role [of judge]. I think I'll go back on stage this time, I've done the judging thing. But I always end up thinking for every 10 words there's 20 jumps. So I can't keep up.
Mr Kingi is one of four kaiwhiriwhiri who will be marking the traditional song or poetry section known as moteatea.
It was a difficult section to judge but his enjoyment of the Maori language made it easy for him, Mr Kingi said.
"I've always had a passion for kapa haka, my biggest passion is te reo Maori, for me if there is any winner of any competition it's te reo Maori ...
"For me sometimes, when you look at some of the compositions, a lot of the compositions are to do with political politics. Where I'd rather see compositions to do with history ..." Mr Kingi said.
"My ears perk up when I hear that sort of composition as opposed to anything political."
Thousands are expected to attend the pohiri (official opening) which is being held at the Rotorua International Stadium today.
The festival itself runs from tomorrow until Sunday. Te Arawa have six teams competing at this year's event with Kataore the first Te Arawa group to perform at 2.27pm tomorrow.
Forty one groups are competing in total with the top nine to perform on Sunday.
Gates open at 7am with the first group (Te Kotahitanga) scheduled to start performing at 8.45am.
Day One - Thursday:
Pool One - Te Ihu
8.45 to 9.15am Te Kotahitanga
9.22 to 9.52am Ngaa Pou O Roto
9.59 to 10.29am Te Raranga Whanui
10.36 to 11.06am Te Whanau a Apanui
11.21 to 11.51am Te Toka Tu Manawa
11.58 to 12.28pm Te Rerenga Kotuku
12.35 to 1.05pm Opotiki Mai Tawhiti
1.50 to 2.20pm Nga Purapura o Te Taihauauru
2.27 to 2.57pm Kataore
3.04 to 3.34pm Waihirere
3.41 to 4.11pm Te Manu Huia
4.26 to 4.56pm Nga Manu Waiata
5.03 to 5.33pm Nga Tumanako
5.40 to 6.10pm Te Ropu Haka o Nga Manu a Tane