Succinct swings of the poi, powerful mōteatea and a spine-tingling haka were just some of the performance features at the "Olympics of Te Arawa" regional kapa haka competition.

Twenty-one teams from across the Te Arawa rōpū took to the stage both Friday and Saturday, vying for one of six spots at next year's national Te Matatini competition.

Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai took out top honours named as overall winners. They will be joined by Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Te Matarae I O Rehu, Ngāti Whakaue, and Te Hekenga a Rangi to represent Te Arawa at Te Matatini 2020.

Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai were crowned overall winners. Photo / Supplied
Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai were crowned overall winners. Photo / Supplied

The prestigious nationals only come around every second year, with Te Arawa teams often strongly featured or taking the top prize.

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The Te Arawa Waka Taua (war canoe) was out on display as thousands flooded into the Energy Events Centre to support their whānau on the big stage.

More than six months of preparation had gone into each performance with weekly rehearsals being held at local marae and community halls.

Te Arawa Kapa Haka Charitable Trust chairman and Te Arawa Kapa Haka royalty Trevor Maxwell called the event the "Olympics of Te Arawa".

The regional competition showcased the "beautiful commitment" the performers had to celebrate the art of kapa haka.

It was the largest regional competition in the country and produced some of the top national talent.

Te Arawa Kapa Haka Charitable Trust chairman Trevor Maxwell. Photo / File
Te Arawa Kapa Haka Charitable Trust chairman Trevor Maxwell. Photo / File

"Te Arawa has always been so strong in this wonderful art form."

Every year the teams brought traditional discipline to the stage, often with a modern contemporary edge, he said.

There was a "fine line" in getting this mix right.

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Just as Maxwell said these words, a group performing brought out fire poi and large fireballs on sticks, which he said were prime examples of something bold and different.

Rotorua was rife with Māori culture, which Maxwell said shone through in local tourism.

"We feel such immense pride."

Te Ahi Tipua (o Tuwharetoa) showcase their talent with poi. Photo / Andrew Warner
Te Ahi Tipua (o Tuwharetoa) showcase their talent with poi. Photo / Andrew Warner

Kapa haka was an art form that Maxwell held close to his heart, after competing internationally his whole life as a Ngāti Rangiwewehi tāne.

Over his years, he competed alongside well-known local Māori figure Beatrice Piatarihi Tui Yates or Aunty Bea who this year's competition was dedicated to.

Big names in the kapa haka realm showcased their talents at the festival, such as Maxwell's son Inia and Howie Morrison Jnr.

He said the competition was a good way to keep the culture alive and pass on the traditions to "tamariki of the future".

Not only that, he believed it was an excellent way to promote health and wellbeing to young Māori.

This year, the Cuban ambassador and Miss Indian World 2019 both came down to relish in the culture.

Te Ahi Tipua (o Tuwharetoa) perform at the Te Arawa Regional Kapa Haka competition. Photo / Andrew Warner
Te Ahi Tipua (o Tuwharetoa) perform at the Te Arawa Regional Kapa Haka competition. Photo / Andrew Warner

Every other year, the town "emptied out" for nationals as thousands of locals headed to watch their team on the national stage, Maxwell said.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick was at the event and said the captivating performances always brought a tear to her eye.

She said the "enormous response" from the community every year showed how "incredibly important" the event was to the city.

Chadwick planned to head to Australia next weekend with the New Zealand ambassador for the Te Arawa Kapa haka competition there.

Results are finalised Sunday night.

Provisional aggregate results

Overall Winners and Kapa going to Te Matatini 2020 to represent Te Arawa

1. Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai
2. Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao
3. Ngāti Rangiwewehi
4. Te Matarae I O Rehu
5. Ngāti Whakaue
6. Te Hekenga a Rangi

Whakaeke
1. Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai, Te Matarae I O Rehu, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao

Mōteatea
1. Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao

Waiata ā-ringa
1. Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao
2. Te Hikuwai, Te Hekenga a Rangi, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai,

Poi
1. Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai
2. Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Te Matarae I O Rehu

Haka
1. Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Te Pikikōtuku o Rongomai, Ngāti Whakaue

Whakawātea
1. Te Pikikōtuku o Rongomai, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao
2. Te Matarae I O Rehu

Te Reo
1. Ngāti Whakaue
2. Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai

Provisional non-aggregate results

Tira
1. Ngāti Rangiwewehi
2. Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao

Whaikōrero
1st Equal
Ohinemutu
Te Pikikotuku
Ngāti Rangiwewehi
Ngāti Whakaue

Kākahu
1. Te Matarae I O Rehu
2. Ngāti Rangiwewehi
3. Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao

Kaitātaki Tāne
1st Equal
Te Piki Kōtuku
Te Matarae I O Rehu
Ngāti Rangiwewehi
Te Hekenga a Rangi

Kaitātaki Wahine
1. Te Matarae I O Rehu/Ngāti Whakaue
2. Ngāti Rangiwewehi

Composition
1. Te Hikuwai
2. Ngāti Rangiwewehi
3. Te Hekenga a Rangi, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiako,

Best New Group
1. Te Hekenga a Rangi

Best Revived Item
1. Te Rau Aroha - Pakete Whero

Pakeke Group - Most Koeke Over 70+
1. Ngāti Whakaue Koeke

Best Pakeke Group
1. Te Rau Aroha

Eldest Koeke
Bonnie Amohau - Ngāti Whakaue Koeke