Rotorua's winning secondary schools kapa haka team hadn't long returned from a trip to Portugal before taking out the prestigious title.

Raukura, a combined Rotorua Girls' High School and Rotorua Boys' High School team, were on Friday crowned the National Secondary Schools Kapa Haka Competition winners in Napier.

It was a quick turnaround to make it to the nationals, after only returning from a 17-day cultural trip to Portugal six days before the competition.

The group is tutored by Kimiora Webster, Jamus Webster, Taletha Webster, Laurelle Tamati and Michael Rurehe.


Mr Rurehe said the students got back from a cultural trip to Portugal where they performed about 30 shows and six days later were heading to Napier. During that short turnaround, the students managed only about two to three practices.

"I think the way the students performed is a reflection of what each individual tutor brings with them and the professional manner of the students. It's just in them.

"The students we have in Raukura, many of them are members of other senior kapa haka groups in Rotorua and perform in the concert arena. They are professionals."

Mr Rurehe said it was amazing to win the competition for the first time, having come second twice before - at the 2014 nationals in Gisborne and the 2010 nationals in Rotorua.

Raukura had a clean sweep with most of the aggregate sections and won the poi for the third nationals in a row.

"That's where we set the bar. It's also down to Laurelle Tamati's teaching. She is such a perfectionist and disciplinarian on and off the stage."

He said it had been pleasing how the students had reacted since their big win.

"Our students are very humble and we have tried to instil he mea nui ki te whakaiti i a koe ano (to be humble)."

He said what gave them the edge over the other teams was their waiata-a-ringa (action song) and apakura (lament) dedicated to the late Te Arawa leader Mauriora Kingi - which was even more poignant with Mr Kingi's son, Tawharau Mohi, performing in the group.

But he said the competition was not just about winning.

"It's about celebrating being Maori. It is through Maori performing arts that those individuals are able to express themselves and get messages through."

He said gratitude must also be given to the team's managers, Wai Morrison from Rotorua Girls' High School and Fred Whata from Rotorua Boys' High School.

Jamus Webster said the tutors were more focused on getting the students to Portugal and anything they got at the nationals was a bonus.

"We made sure that everything was well planned and worked well as a team of kaiako to get the kids to Portugal. We made sure all of our kids' families were well informed about everything and tried to keep in touch with the families as much as we could. Focusing on Portugal took the pressure of the competition away from the kids allowing them to enjoy their trip overseas."

Fellow tutor Kimiora Webster said he was proud the group stood and represented their maunga, awa, marae, iwi, hapu and whanau.

"They were also able to reflect the support and how wonderful the two schools they represent are. We are all proud of what they have achieved and hope that this success becomes a virus and affects everyone that comes in contact with them."