In the lead-up to this year's regional kapa haka competition, Northland groups will be spending more time at marae than in their own homes.

The weekend live-ins and weekly practices are necessary in order for groups to keep up with the high level of competition expected at the 2016 Te Tai Tokerau Senior Regional Kapa Haka Competition in April said Joby Hopa - kapa haka veteran and chairman of the Waitangi Cultural Committee which organises the event.

Mr Hopa, who is part of Whangarei-based roopu Hatea, said the first time Hatea entered a regional kapa haka competition in 2001 they had to borrow uniforms from a kapa haka group from Te Arawa called Nga Pumanawa.

He said kapa haka had evolved since then - not only do the group have their own uniforms now but Mr Hopa said there was a higher level of competition.


"When we first started we had the desire for our children to be performing, now we have our kids and grandkids all performing together. There has been exponential growth in the north, more people are involved in kapa haka. A lot are writing their own songs and composing their own music," he said.

Fitness had also become an important part of kapa haka as groups needed to have the stamina to keep up with other roopu.

Nine groups from all around Northland had entered so far, including the 2014 champions Muriwhenua, based in Kaitaia. Each group is allowed a maximum of 40 members on stage and must perform seven different items.

"For every group preparation includes weekly practices, weekly live-ins. A lot goes into it and winning first place, for any group, is a nice reward for all the hard work," he said.

Depending on the number of groups entered, the top three (if nine groups are entered) or four (if 12 groups are entered) will go on to compete at the Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival in 2017.

-2016 Te Tai Tokerau Senior Regional Kapa Haka Competition will take place at ASB Stadium on April 9.