Northland students started Te Wiki o te reo Māori (Māori Language Week) with a colourful parade through Whangārei on a warm spring morning.
Whangārei Girls' High School took the lead in organising yesterday's event for a second year running. They were joined by students and adults from all over Te Tai Tokerau.
While the smallest participants are yet to learn to talk, older students proved excellent language skills and shared their te reo message with the wider whānau.
"He aroha wakatō, He aroha puta mai. If kindness is sown, the kindness you shall receive," it said on a sign crafted by Whangārei Girl's High School Year 9 students.
Pupil Maisie Ulenberg said they chose the phrase because it was an important idea that translated through all languages.
"Te reo is such a big part of our culture, but not everyone knows much about it," Maisie said.
Classmate Maid Key added they took part in the parade to prove a point.
"We want to show that Māori is spoken in New Zealand and it's not going away," she said.
The crowd of students, teachers and whānau opened the parade at Whangārei Central Library with a harmonious waiata, followed by a prayer led by Marore Piripi, from Te Kapehu Whetu, a bilingual school in Whangārei.
With song and laughter, the procession flowed down Cameron St down to the mall where everyone joined in a powerful performance.
As downtown Whangārei was filled with the spirit of Māori culture, several pedestrians stopped to listen to what Northland's te reo students had to offer.
Ringi Hohepa, Whangārei Girl's High School head of Māori and co-organiser, said te reo speakers were on a mission to normalise the language and integrate it further into everyday New Zealand.
"Last year's event was a huge success, and we wanted to continue this momentum to show that te reo is here to stay," she said.
With more than 3500 participants, the Te Wiki o te reo Māori event last year earned organisers several awards.
Hohepa said 2000 people registered this year, but the turnout was much higher.
The parade ended with several outstanding haka by some of the best performers of the region at the Hihiaua Cultural Centre.