Much like the hammerhead shark, which fights to survive so insistently that its meat quivers when freshly filleted, so a local kapa haka team has fought fiercely for its place at next week's national competition in Christchurch.

Tutara Kauika ki Rangataua has competed at a regional level for 20 years, but this year has reached the national competition, Te Matatini, for the first time.

Tutara co-ordinator Jack Thatcher says it's a whanau-based kapa and won't be the only Tauranga Moana kapa taking on 42 teams from across Australasia at Hagley Park from March 5 to 8. Ngati Ranginui kapa haka will also take the stage.

Jack says the Tutara team of 42, which includes two reserves, along with its 10-person support crew, has spent thousands of hours preparing.


"Not just in the practice, but, you know, a campaign like this would be over $100,000 investment, especially for going down to Christchurch," Jack says.

He says they have people dedicated to planning and composing, as well as performing.

"You've got all these different people working at different things, putting in hundreds of hours each, just prepping."

Jack says they're feeling good.

"We've got a good draw. We've got a former, two-time winner [Rotorua] just before us, and they're probably the most energetic team in the competition," he says. "I'm pretty confident that we'll be able to be noticed."

It's a senior competition, with 14 teams in each of the three divisions. Each performs an optional warm-up song and six compulsory songs, then the top three kapa from each division perform in the finals.

Jack says locals have got behind the team, with whanau even going so far as feeding them.

"It's a huge community effort around supporting the group and enabling them to get on with their practice," Jack says. "The wonderful thing about what's happening with our two [local kapa] teams is that there's been a little bit of a competitive nature over the last couple of months, where we've been doing what we call 'haka fit'."

The Kumikumi Trust heard Tutara were regularly walking up Mauao for fitness training and challenged Ngati Ranginui to join them by paying $20 each time the teams walked up. Both kapa hit the Trust's limit of 300 ascents.

"It's really been a beautiful little campaign," Jack says. "You know, when we do our region thing, we come together."