Big weekend for Maori Catholics

As many as 2000 Maori Catholic club members have descended on Whanganui for a weekend of cultural and religious celebration.

The annual Hui Aranga (Easter gathering) is being held at Whanganui Girls' College, hosted by the St Peter Chanel Club based at Kaiwhaiki Pa.

Five of the clubs are from the wider Whanganui area, with others from across the North Island.

The whole school has been hired for the four days of Easter, with performances in the hall, sleeping in classrooms, and kitchen and dining at the back in large marquees.

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People began arriving at the site on Thursday, with children's kapa haka kicking off yesterday morning.

"You can see the build-up out there. It could be well up over 2000," kaumatua John Mahi said.

Mr Mahi said most marae in Whanganui had Catholic links.

"It goes way back to the original fathers. A lot of the people have kept that going."

Hui Aranga has been going for about 70 years.

The clubs celebrate Easter with a mixture of sport, whaikorero (speech-making), kapa haka, song and their Catholic faith.

Each club has uniforms and banners, and collects points throughout the weekend.

Sunday is the biggest day with a parade to Mass in uniform, and a hakari (feast).

On Monday, farewells are said and another club takes on the task of hosting the hui next year.