A banner emblazoned with the words 'kia kaha te reo Māori' is held proudly by students from Whangārei Girls High School.

Behind them follow thousands of people from all over Northland - including kōhanga and schools - who have gathered in the city to celebrate te reo Māori.

For the first time ever a parade to mark Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori has been held in Whangārei thanks to Whangārei Girls High School.

Moana-Aroha Henry, Whangārei Girls' High School kaiako Māori, and Ringi Hohepa, the school's head of Māori, were blown away at the turnout to yesterday's hikoi.


"It was a great turnout today. What we thought was going to be 200 people at the hikoi has been thousands of people coming along to celebrate Te Wiki o te Reo Māori," Henry said.

Hohepa agreed: "[I was] absolutely blown away by the feedback, the response, the happiness. The wairua has been amazing and it's just such an honour."

The parade started outside the Whangārei Library and the thousands of people marched to the Cameron St Mall where they paused to enjoy waiata and haka. From there the march continued to the Canopy Bridge.

Henry said they were also very excited as Whangārei won Māori Television's Reo Town trophy. Reo Town is Māori Television show which has visited major cities including Wellington, Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland throughout the week.

During their visits they ran a competition asking people in each city to give them a kupu Māori (Māori word) and the city with the most kupu - which ended up being Whangārei - won.