Size certainly wasn't important at Saturday's Far North's Got Talent 2018 finals at Te Ahu in Kaitaia.

The junior title went to Taimania Conrad, a tiny 9-year-old from Te Kao, who lit up her audience with a spine-tingling karanga, waiata and kapa haka performance, but was lost for words when she heard she had won the trophy, which was almost as big as she was, and $800.

Runner-up, and crowd favourite, was Tiare Lanigan (Taipa Area School).

The senior section was hotly contested by dancers, vocalists and musicians, hip-hop dance crew Hush, from various Far North schools, taking the title with a conceptual dance number about Red Riding Hood.

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Runners-up were brothers Manawanui and Te Hauora Tawhara-Crown, aka Zentarge, who combined a stunning musical performance with comedy, Manawanui saying he planned to spend his share of the $500 prize money on hair products to tame his sensational afro.

Hop-hop dance crew Hush, who used Red Riding Hood as their inspiration for a winning performance at Far North's Got Talent 2018.
Hop-hop dance crew Hush, who used Red Riding Hood as their inspiration for a winning performance at Far North's Got Talent 2018.

Stars come out at Te Ahu

The 2018 Far North's Got Talent organisers promised that the stars would come out at Te Ahu on Saturday, and come out they did, right from the first act, the junior finalists' rendition of Sara Bareilles' Brave, their harmonies and confidence belying their few short months of preparation.

Noah McBirney Warnes (Pukenui) told the audience that he sang because it made him feel happy, and to inspire other children to try it.

The Far North's Got Talent Band, which supported the finalists, included musical director Jonathan Pirini, who took time out from his studies in Wellington to be there, while the line-up included previous finalists Caleb Cross, Jackson Taylor and Canary Herbert (Far North Voice 2013), Kapowairua Waitai (FNGT 2017), the heat judges and coaches, Riqi Harawira and Soulsista Aotearoa, and local hip hop dancers Damon Semenoff and Esera Saulo.

The guest judges for the finals were Tina Cross, for a second year, Pere Wihongi, an avid supporter and promoter of te reo in music and MC at the first 2016 show, Majic Paora, for the third time, and multi-platinum, multi-award-winning singer, songwriter, producer, former New Zealand's Got Talent judge Jason Kerrison. MCs Luke (The Birdman) Bird and Miss Kihi also returned for another year.

Tina Cross urged the finalists to do what they loved and what they were passionate about, Jason telling them not to compare themselves to others.

"Use your nerves, use that energy to help your performance," he said.

Shine on Kaitaia project manager and FNGT event director Micah Tawhara was thrilled with the standard of the finalists, and the supportive crowd from around the Far North that assembled to hear them.

"Another amazing season thanks to many people bringing their skills and passion together for our youth, our future," she said.

"These kids are the stars, and we all love doing this mahi to help them shine brighter.

"A couple of bonuses this year was having Arotahi AIA youth group fully hands-on with stage management, thanks to Derek Ashley and Mihi Henare's guidance leading up to and during the event, and having members of the Tai Tokerau Maori Wardens Association provide security."

Shine on Kaitaia also wished to thank the "many, many" volunteers and sponsors who gave their time, money and expertise to the event.

The Far North District Council and Te Hiku Community Board approved an events grant to He Whanau Marama Trust to assist with costs, while Shutterbug Photography, Signs of Life, NZ Surf Bros, Tawhara Law, Te Hiku Media, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro, Kaitaia College, Mauri Botanicals, Manaia Designs, Music Workshop, Te Ahu Trust, The Orana and main resource sponsor Te Rarawa all contributed to its success of the event.

Finalists chosen from each section will now have an opportunity to record their music, and make a music video, thanks to Te Rarawa.

Donations towards Shine on Kaitaia initiatives would always be welcomed by Whanau Marama Trust (hewhanaumaramatrust@gmail.com).