New Zealand's national kapa haka festival has "Māori-ised the capital" says one proud performer.

Thousands of performers have flocked to Wellington this week for Te Matatini, a huge festival involving 46 teams, including two from Australia.

Tutor of East Coast team Ōpōtiki Mai Tawhiti, Te Kahautu Maxwell, said the festival was providing a massive boost to the local economy, with teams travelling from all over the country to attend.

"I think Te Matatini's Māori-ised the capital for a week, so that's pretty cool," he said.


His team, which is from the Eastern Bay of Plenty town of Ōpōtiki, performed yesterday, bringing a number of messages including one in which they called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Labour government to settle their Treaty claim.

Maxwell said the claim had been outstanding since 58,275ha of their land was confiscated in 1856, and settlement money would go toward things such as better housing, social services, and education for the Whakatōhea people.

"It was important to take that message," Maxwell said.

Today there was "a real good vibe" in the stadium.

There were many sacrifices people had to make to come to the event, and for many groups it costs thousands of dollars, but the sacrifices were worth it to "rekindle those family ties".

"It does something spiritually for the people to reconnect with where they come from."

The festival was important for the maintenance of te reo and the maintenance of the Māori culture, he said.

"It's a forum where Māori can be Māori, and Māori can showcase the best that they have in regards to the Māori performing arts."


He said the highlight of the festival was showcasing an art form that was "thousands and thousands of years old and that is iconic to New Zealand".

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage expects up to 65,000 tickets to be sold over the four-day festival.

Chief executive Bernadette Cavanagh said kapa haka made a significant contribution to New Zealand's national identity and played an important role in Māori language renewal throughout the country.

"Kapa haka brings our nation's stories to life."

The theme of the 2019 festival is Te Matatini ki te Ao, which means Te Matatini to the world.

It's meant to promote the status of Te Matatini as a world-class festival and a global stage for Māori performance excellence.