Te Kapa Haka o Ngāti Whakaue will compete at this week's Te Matatini for the first time in nearly 40 years - a huge achievement for the 40-strong team.

And among the estimated 60,000 crowd will be four special Te Arawa koeke (elders), all in their 90s, who will travel to Wellington with the group.

Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival, to be held from Thursday to Sunday, showcases the best kapa haka talent from around New Zealand.

Six Te Arawa teams will compete this year, having qualified at regional events.

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Ngāti Whakaue head tutor Tenga Rangitauira said the group had performed together since 2016 and had worked hard to get to this point.

Te Kapa Haka o Ngāti Whakaue will compete at Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival, to be held from Thursday to Sunday. Photo / Supplied
Te Kapa Haka o Ngāti Whakaue will compete at Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival, to be held from Thursday to Sunday. Photo / Supplied

"It means so much to us for our koeke to awhi us on this journey. It will be an incredible experience for all of us to have them there. We are in good spirits, having completed and polished our performance last weekend.

"This is a mammoth job, which is why we, the tutors, appreciate the help from our whānau, our elders and our tribe," Rangitauira said.

Te Kapa Haka o Ngāti Whakaue will perform six compulsory items - a whakaeke (entry), moteatea (traditional chant), action song, poi, haka and whakawatea (exit). They also have the option of doing a choral and a formal speech.

"Te reo Māori is judged as an essential element of the competition because it is the cornerstone of our culture. This was implemented to put more emphasis on our language. I believe it has helped with the revitalisation of the Māori language," Rangitauira said.

He also believed the group's success was due to a number of factors, including the financial support of Ngāti Whakaue Assets Trust, which had a sports and cultural grant fund available for tribal members.

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Trust chairwoman Katie Paul said $10,000 was put towards the kapa haka team and a further $7000 towards the 100-strong group of supporters travelling to Wellington with the team.

"Kapa haka is a bold and vibrant expression of our tribal cultural identity. Beneficiaries have asked our trust to support the marae, tikanga, reo and our traditions - the foundations of tribal identity. These events strengthen identity and build pride for generations to come," Paul said.

Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust and the Ngāti Whakaue Endowment Fund also provided tribal grants.

Malcolm Short, chairman of both trusts, said his boards had supported these cultural events for years, but this week's event was quite special.