Yesterday was a good day to be a young Maori person in Wanganui.
The Wanganui Memorial Centre was abuzz with secondary students and their teachers and parents for the Pae Rangatahi kapa haka competitions. They came from the whole Aotea Region and schools in Waitara, New Plymouth, Hawera and Wanganui.
The young people competed in speeches in English and Maori on Wednesday. Yesterday it was the turn of seven groups to compete in kapa haka.
The main room was filled with people waiting to watch the performances, while downstairs groups were dressing and rehearsing. The place was full of the twang of guitars, the rustle of poi and piupiu and countless conversations.
Sixteen-year-olds Gabriel Whanarere and Jahniva-Lee Kotuhi-Hogan were revelling in it all. They're among the 30 Year 9-13 students at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho. Both have been doing kapa haka since they could walk.
Their group, Te Potiki Hononga Kura, combines their school with Te Kura o Kokohuia.
"It's amazing, the experience, the atmosphere. There's heaps of Maori kids our age, and we meet heaps of new people all the time," Gabriel said.
Their school is running the competitions this year, and also hosted New Plymouth Girls' High School at its Castlecliff base. The girls spent all day at the centre on Wednesday and Jahniva-Lee came second in the senior Maori speech competition. They've also been helping out in the canteen.
The Aotea Regional Manu Korero and Pae Rangatahi takes place every year. This year's two top kapa haka groups will go on to national competitions in Gisborne in 2014.
Organiser Betty-Joe Wiari said the days were a time for rangatahi (young people) to celebrate being young together.
She found it difficult to get sponsorship this year, and said hosting them was expensive.
The Nga Manu Korero speech side dates back to 1965, and used to be know as the Korimako Contest. The kapa haka side was noncompetitive at first, and its standard has developed hugely.
Yesterday's 14 judges were to include Ina Whanarere, Te Rangi Hemi and Shaia Twomey, with Raymond Kaiki as convenor.
This year the Chronicle was only allowed to take photographs of schools that had given permission.