Punters heading to the Ngapuhi Festival are being encouraged to walk, car-pool, or catch the bus as a crowd of 20,000 and heavy traffic is expected.

The biennial festival being held in Whangarei for the first time in its 14-year history is on Saturday while its flagship event, iwi art exhibition Toi Ngapuhi, is open to the public from today until Sunday.

Event manager Tio Taiaki said more than 20,000 people were expected at the festival on Saturday and because of the anticipated numbers the road in front of Toll Stadium - between the two roundabouts - would be closed.

"High traffic volume is expected to put pressure on parking in the Whangarei CBD and surrounds so where possible people are encouraged to walk, car-pool and use public transport," he said.


The event, organised by Te Runanga-A-Iwi O Ngapuhi, is traditionally held in Kaikohe however the decision was made to shift the free festival to Toll Stadium to be closer to Ngapuhi in Auckland and Whangarei.

The runanga has organised a bus from Kaikohe to the festival so people who can't find transport can still attend.

There will also be free shuttles running to and from the festival leaving from the Tikipunga Tavern, the Otangarei shops, NorthTec marae, Tauroa St, Wilkinson Ave, and the Onerahi Tavern. The first shuttle leaves each location at 8am and run hourly until 12pm. They will start leaving again from 5pm and run hourly until 8pm.

Mr Taiaki said 85 stalls had been booked with plenty of delicious kai on offer from hangi, watermelon icecream, fried bread, pipi and mussel fritters and more. A Youth BAE zone has been set up for people aged 11 to 17 years old.

Meanwhile, Toi Ngapuhi will exhibit work from some of the country's most prestigious Maori artists. This year ta moko artists and renowned urban mural artists will work on their craft live at the exhibition.

Whangarei based artist Mike Tupaea will team up with urban artists Charles and Janine Williams to produce an outdoor mural which will be gifted to a community with a need for it.

"A mural can change a space and if you have got the right kaupapa and if you have people buying into it and they believe what the kaupapa is about then it can be a very powerful thing for a community," said Mr Tupaea.