The final of the country's premier kapa haka competition will be translated from te reo Māori to Mandarin for the first time.

The Te Matatini kapa haka festival kicks off next Thursday at Wellington's Westpac Stadium and will run for four days, leading up to the final on Sunday.

Aucklander Lidu Gong - star of the Vogel's advert - will translate the event for Māori TV's broadcast.

Gong, a Chinese national, started learning te reo about eight years ago.

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He's now fluent, but continues to study the language and, more broadly, the culture to improve his knowledge.

The 64-year-old fits this around his work as a librarian at Te Wananga o Aotearoa's Māngere campus and his home life with his wife and daughter in Mt Roskill.

Gong started learning te reo because of his fascination with Māori culture, along with another, slightly more unusual reason.

Ngati Kahungunu Ki Heretaunga performing at Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival, which last year was held in Hawke's Bay. Photo / Paul Taylor
Ngati Kahungunu Ki Heretaunga performing at Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival, which last year was held in Hawke's Bay. Photo / Paul Taylor

Around a decade ago he began suffering from insomnia, and had started searching for a way to cure his sleeplessness.

"I was told that the best way of getting to sleep was repeating something to myself," he said.

Having learnt Japanese and German in his late 20s, he knew learning a language was all about repetition - so decided to give te reo a go.

He soon found he loved the language, and whiling away sleepless hours with vowels and learning place names, became one of the "best parts" of his day.

He went on to involve himself in kapa haka, and in 2013, was part of an award-winning team.

"I really like it as a way of conveying Maori identity and spirituality," Gong said.

The invitation to act as translator for the event final came as a surprise, he said, but a welcome one.

There were many similarities between Mandarin and te reo, which he hoped the audience to his translation would appreciate.

A crowd of around 60,000 is expected over the course of the event - which is returning to Wellington for the first time in 40 years.

Te Matatini ki Te Ao 2019: What you need to know

  • The theme of the festival "Te Matatini ki Te Ao" - meaning "Te Matatini to the world".
  • The final day of the event will be translated into both English and Mandarin.
  • 46 teams are representing 13 regions within New Zealand and Australia.
  • The Te Matatini team are expecting more than one million viewers across the world.
  • 60,000 are expected to attend the event over its four days.
  • Around 19,000 people are expected to turn up for the event final on Sunday.