The Crown says it was Hendrix John Kahia who stabbed Wiremu Birch to death in a gang-related confrontation in Taupō on an October night more than five years ago.

Kahia's lawyer Elizabeth Hall argues that the prosecution has the wrong man in the dock.

Hall told the jury trying Kahia, 35, in the High Court at Rotorua, they would meet the man who did stab Birch when the prosecution called him to the witness stand.

"Hendrix had nothing to do with it at all, he [this man] blamed Hendrix ... this worked for a while, this man has never been held to account," she said.

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She contended a woman who'd witnessed the "ducking and diving" going on when Birch was stabbed three times had told police it was that man who was lined up to testify who'd pulled the knife.

She added that with his dying breath Birch had added the name of a second man.

"This case is whether Hendrix Kahia stabbed Wiremu Birch to death, he didn't, the Crown has to be sure they've got the right person, the defence says they haven't."

Prosecutor Chris Macklin acknowledged the case could be viewed as a "whodunit" but was adamant it was Kahia who inflicted the fatal wounds that claimed the 19-year-old's life on Taupō's Hinemoa Ave on the night of October 11, 2013.

He described Birch as being linked to the Mongrel Mob and reminded jurors that red was the gang's colour. Kahia associated with Black Power and the two had traded insults before the melee that led to Birch's stabbing.

Macklin outlined how Birch had become increasingly more inebriated as he moved from one social gathering to another preceding the stabbing. He'd become so obnoxious at a Mongrel Mob gathering he was told he wasn't welcome among his own.

Over the course of the night a shirtless, slurring and staggering Birch was involved in one-on-one confrontations with Black Power members and verbal taunts were exchanged.

Tensions escalated when Birch was seen urinating in the back yard of a property linked to Black Power.

As he was staggering home "in bad shape", as Macklin described it, a car drew up beside him with Black Power members, and affiliates including Kahia in it.

"Birch was surrounded, he became aggressive calling out slogans on the red side of the ledger, a knife was drawn and he was stabbed in the stomach, chest and leg, the chest wound proving fatal," Macklin asserted.

He described how a witness to be called had been in a fist fight with Birch when he felt him become slippery before falling to ground where he bled out.

A woman with Birch at the time would say she'd seen someone she couldn't identify diving in and out of the group making lunging and stabbing movements however she hadn't seen a knife. She screamed for help as Birch stumbled backwards.

A passing police car was flagged down, an ambulance called but Birch couldn't be saved.

"The question for you will be who held that knife, the Crown says it was Kahia," Macklin told the jury of eight women and four men.

Kaihia entered a not guilty plea to Birch's murder when the trial began this morning .

The trial before Justice Edwin Wylie is expected to run for up to two weeks.