This weekend 18 Te Arawa groups will battle it out for the honour of representing the rohe at Te Matatini next year. Head of news Kelly Makiha reports.

THE TEAM taking out the title of the winning Te Arawa group at this weekend's regional competition will be given an added honour.

The supreme winner will be awarded the Mauriora Kingi Memorial Trophy as an acknowledgement to the much respected kaumatua who died last year.

Eighteen kapa haka groups will take to the stage at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre on Friday and Saturday for the Te Arawa Kapa Haka Whakataetae A Rohe before what is expected to be a sellout crowd of more than 4000 people.

The top five groups will go through to Te Matatini, the national competition to be held in Hawke's Bay from February 22 to 26 next year. Organising committee member Watu Mihinui said the kaupapa of the event would be in memory of Mr Kingi because he was held in such high esteem.

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Despite being just 53 when he died, he was the longest serving judge at Te Matatini, having served on the panel since 1988.

"It was his knowledge of things Maori that held him in extraordinary stead everywhere he went. He was renowned around the country for it and every group will be paying some sort of acknowledgement to him this weekend."

The late Mauriora Kingi. Photo/File
The late Mauriora Kingi. Photo/File

The trophy, donated by Tuhourangi Ngati Wahiao, will replace the Waiariki Cultural Challenge Shield, which was the original supreme trophy when the competition began and when Te Arawa was under the Waiariki region with Mataatua. She said given the two rohe now held their own regional competitions, it was timely to retire the trophy and replace it with the Mauriora Kingi Memorial Trophy.

The supreme winners will also get the Sir Howard Morrison Memorial Trophy and the\ Henry Taiporutu Mitchell Memorial Trophy. She said another special new trophy
would be handed out for the first time in memory of Rawiri Rangitauira, who died in July 2014.

Donated by Ngati Whakaue, the trophy would be given for the best te reo, which is a new category that is part of the aggregate points. There will also be three new awards in the Pakeke Tautoko (supporters) section.

Ms Mihinui said it was appropriate to acknowledge those groups because without them they would not be able to send five teams to Te Matatini, as the number of finalists was determined by the number of teams entered into each regionals. Each year at Te Matatini Te Arawa has historically had slightly more finalists because of their strong turnouts at the regional level.

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Kapa haka groups ready to compete

The new awards would be for the Pakeke Tautoko team with the most koeke (male elders) and kuia (female elders), team with the oldest koeke or kuia and team with the best revived item.

The two-day competition starts at 2pm today with eight Pakeke/Tautoko groups. On Saturday the event will start at 9am with one Pakeke/Tautoko group before the main groups get under way.

All performances should be finished by 5pm and prizegiving will start at 6.30pm. The
MCs are local personalities Kingi Biddle and Jojo Waaka. Ms Mihinui said 21 judges would have the task of deciding the winners of each category and picking the top five for Te Matatini. Each judge would have no more than two aggregate disciplines to judge (aggregate disciplines are the compulsory items that the winners are chosen from).

The seven aggregate disciplines include whakaeke (entry), moteatea (traditional chant), waiata-a-ringa (action song), poi (performed by women using poi), haka (performed by men), whakawatea (exit song) and te reo (Maori language). The non aggregate disciplines include kaitataki wahine (best female leader), kaitataki tane (best male leader), waiata tira (choral), whaikorero (speech) and kakahu (costume).

The 2014 Te Arawa regional winners were Te Matarae i Orehu, who have won the top award at Te Matatini twice before in 2000 and 2011. Te Arawa's other historically successful group was Ngati Rangiwewehi who won Te Matatini in 1983 and 1996.

The current champions are Te Whanau a Apanui from Otautahi who won Te Matatini in Christchurch last year.

- Tickets are available at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua on Friday and Saturday or from Ticketek. Entry both days is $20 for adults, $10 for kaumatua and children aged 5 to 14. Children 4 and under are free.