More than 1000 performers and supporters from Waikato schools converged on Hillcrest High School last week to celebrate kapa haka.
He Tai Ohinga Maro is a kapa haka festival with Hillcrest hosting 10 other secondary schools.
"It's not really a competition as such, it's really just an opportunity for schools in our area to get together and to perform as kapa haka groups," said Hillcrest High School principal Kelvin Whiting.
Participating roopu (groups) came from Waikato Diocesan School for Girls, Cambridge High School, Morrinsville College, Melville High School, Fairfield College, St John's College, Sacred Heart Girls' College, Forest View High School (Tokoroa), Ngāruawāhia High School and St Peters School, Cambridge.
Hillcrest accepted the mauri (trophy) of He Tai Ohinga Maro from Ngāruawāhia High School last year and primary and middle school children from the school's Kāhui Ako (Community of Learning) opened proceedings.
"What we've done this year that's been different from previous years is that we've got our Kāhui Ako schools involved around this area, Tamahere, Tauwhare, Berkley, so that they were able to support Hillcrest High School in the pōwhiri," Mr Whiting said.
Students and the school's Whakaruru Hau committee have worked since term two to prepare for the occasion. Guests included Waikato-Tainui and Ngāti Hauā dignitaries.
"We've got a really dedicated group of staff around Māori achievement and tikanga within the school and relationships with Tainui and Ngāti Hauā have been at the forefront of organising this. A huge amount of work and effort has gone into this," Mr Whiting said.
The large crowd was lively and vocal in their support of those on the stage. Even though He Tai Ohinga Maro was not competitive the students performed with pride and exuberance.
"They want to do well, our students, like all schools do because they're showcasing their talents and capabilities…but also there's a little bit of competitiveness with other schools.
"Even though it's not a competition as such we all like to do the very best that we possibly can."