The countdown for Far North's Got Talent 2018 is under way, after the finalists, whanau and volunteers gathered at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro in Kaitaia last weekend for a two-day coaching and show production workshop.

All 11 finalists, individuals and groups, spent time with heat judges Riqi Harawira (stage presence and crowd engagement), Leonie Adams (managing the event and critiquing each finalist's performance), and SoulSista Aotearoa (microphone techniques and stage presentation).

The Jackson Taylor Band, which will provide backing at the finals, supported the finalists with their musical arrangements, including alumni band member and musical director Jonathan Pirini, who took time out from studies in Wellington to be there.

Meanwhile three of the finals judges have been named — Tina Cross, for a second year, Pere Wihongi, an avid supporter and promoter of te reo in music and MC at the first show, at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro in 2016, and Majic Paora, for the third time — with one more to be announced on the FNGT Facebook page on Sunday.


MCs Luke "The Birdman" Bird and Miss Kihi will also return.

The original Far North Idols trophies, sponsored by Te Rarawa, will both be up for grabs, while the junior winner will receive $800 and the senior winner $1000. Te Rarawa is also sponsoring recording time for original tracks or music videos.

Many of the finalists, chosen after four heats around the Far North and from online auditions, have not performed in public before. Whitirua Panapa is one of them. The 12-year-old Kaitaia Abundant Life School pupil admits to being cautiously excited, but nervous.

Last year's finals concert, at Te Ahu, was a sell-out reaching an audience estimated at 38,000 via te Hiku Media's live stream and later online. And no one is more excited about this year's event than Shine on Kaitaia project manager and FNGT event director Micah Tawhara.

"We see and we hear the positive difference regular public events and activities bring to the community, and we are committed to keeping this going to boost the morale of Kaitaia and the Far North, to teach our youth volunteer skills and provide talented children from Te Hiku with opportunities they might not be able to experience otherwise," she said.

"And, as always, we want to bring Far North families together in a positive and uplifting environment while celebrating the amazing talents of our Far North Youth.

"The 40-plus contestants who auditioned this year were all outstanding, and coming up with the finalists was near impossible.

"We are looking at ways to improve this initiative to ensure all contestants receive opportunities to continue to shine in their talent and not just be limited to this show," she added.

"We're hoping to build relationships with organisations that have the financial capabilities to fund these important youth initiatives, because as volunteers, and with this kaupapa continuing to grow every year, it is becoming more difficult. We're thankful for all our youth and adult volunteers who contribute their love, time, support and energy to making this happen, because without them it wouldn't."

The finals are at Te Ahu on Saturday week (August 25), the doors opening at 3pm. Tickets are on sale via the Far North's Got Talent 2018 Facebook page.

The He Whanau Marama Trust, whose main objectives include to provide opportunities for all Far North families to receive the benefits that shows like this provide, is subsidising tickets, which are selling for $20 (adults), $10 (children six to 17 years) and $5 (five year olds and under), babies free.

The Te Ahu Trust, Te Ahu Cinema and Te Hiku Media have also joined forces to live stream the show to the Little Theatre.

All proceeds, after costs have been covered, will go towards Shine on Kaitaia's fundraising for the town's Youth Activity Centre project at the old Pak'nSave site.