A Whanganui man is behind a corrections facilities' initiative hoping to inspire those who are serving time.
Mark Pirikahu is the project co-ordinator for the Intersite Kapa Haka competition and has been on the road for the past four weeks judging facilities' performances.
As part of the Department of Corrections' new strategy, Hōkai Rangi, Pihikahu said changes were needed to decrease the number of Māori in corrections facilities as well as rekindling a connection to Māori culture.
The competition ran for the first time in 2020, with 10 facilities around New Zealand joining up.
After such a positive result in its first year, the competition was announced as an annual event. This year, 16 facilities from all over New Zealand signed up.
Pihikahu was joined by members of the Te Wehi Haka group, six-time winners of Te Matatini, one of the most highly anticipated events for Māori performing arts.
"You could feel it from the wairua and the excitement going on. One of the things that really got to me was the emotions going through our corrections sites, it was so positive," Pihikahu said.
"Knowing this space really well, it was just about going in there and enjoying the moment."
Corrections staff, community services, leadership, iwi partners and prisoners from the facilities area all came together for their performances.
"This is entirely new. This is a whole new concept.
"When you see five or six different gangs in the same row, wow. That's got to be telling you something. When you have white supremists and other factions also participating, something great is happening."
This year, whānau attended performances, providing an extra level of emotion.
Pihikahu hopes that initiatives like this can show what happens when you provide those serving time with care and respect.
"It's amazing how far you can go with being nice."
Unlike the almost militant, structured approach that goes into Te Matatini, these performances were judged on raw emotion.
"Everyone must stomp at the same time, no one is allowed to have a foot out or you will get pinged.
"In this space, you saw the real stuff. Very, very powerful. From the judges, that's what we enjoyed. Their mind was free and their spirit was strong and flowing and able to achieve anything."
The winners of the competition will be announced in the coming weeks.
Pihikahu hopes the competition's success will open up other opportunities in providing postive and meaningful experiences for those in rehabilitation.
"This is just another strategy running from those many streams from a te ao Māori world view coming into fruition.
"Ara Poutama Aotearoa [Department of Corrections] are seeing another way of healing that comes from just kapa haka. Imagine if you open up the whole thing and saw all the other streams. We are breaking down barriers."