Former police officer Trevor Beatson knows how to wrangle a crowd, but he might not have ever struck one quite the size of what is expected in Kaikohe this weekend.
Thousands of manuhiri are expected for the Hui Tau 2021 restoration event and celebrations, hosted by the Whangārei and Kaikohe Stakes (Northern New Zealand regions) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Organisers said earlier this week that they were on track for 3500 nationwide registrations, with up to 2000 non-registered attendees also expected over the weekend, from all over the North Island and as far afield as Christchurch.
Beatson said all events over the weekend would be open to the public, beginning with a mass powhiri to welcome guests, church services, hangi, plenty of speeches, lots of music, eight kapa haka groups from around the country, and youth who would speak in te reo Māori about their faith, their culture and their ancestors.
The Church "featured large amongst Ngāpuhi communities and families.
"My mother went to her first Hui Tau in about the 1940s when she was only six or seven," he said.
"Having put our hands up a couple of years ago to host this event, it's great that with Covid-19 we can still go ahead; only our international visitors had to pull out. We'll be streaming sessions to them," he added.
The powhiri will start at 3pm tomorrow , at Northland College, followed (5.30pm-7pm) by kai (hangi) and socialising, with music and the opportunity to go for a swim (for those with togs and towels).
Saturday's programme will begin with manu korero (9am-11.30am), including youth and young adult speakers in te reo Māori, at Northland College, followed (midday - 4pm) by eight kapa haka groups from all over the country. Labour missionaries will make a guest appearance, singing songs of yesteryear from Te Rau Aroha.
The Hui Tau ball, with a live band, will start at the Kaikohe Stake Centre at 6.30pm.
Sunday will begin with a sacrament meeting in English (9am-10.10am) at the stake centre, followed by te reo (10.30am-midday).
Beatson said it was expected that many of the visitors would want to visit with and attend church with Te Peka o Ngāpuhi, the stake's te reo Māori-speaking branch, at 6 Hongi St.
Sunday afternoon 1pm-5pm will feature a series of workshops in 25- or 50-minute blocks, offering inspirational messages and learning opportunities for all, at the stake centre, concluding with the Hui Tau devotional (6pm-8pm).
"We have a beautiful programme of music and the spoken word planned, powerful speakers, beautiful music, and an unforgettable spirit promised for this special Easter Weekend devotional," he added.
"It is our hope that many will plan, prepare and participate in the 2021 Hui Tau, through song, speech, culture and worship. We see the Hui Tau as a wonderful gathering opportunity, and as an opportunity to reach out and turn the hearts to the fathers."