Six groups from Te Arawa will be competing at Te Matatini from February 21 to 24 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

The official theme of the 2019 festival is 'Te Matatini ki te Ao', meaning 'Te Matatini to the world' and is expected to attract more than 60,000 spectators to the prestigious event.

Rotorua Daily Post talked to three rōpū who are heading down about how they are preparing for the event.

Hīmone Maxwell for Ngāti Rangiwewehi
Ngāti Rangiwewehi has just celebrated 50 years of a vibrant history of kapahaka and commemorated this with the opening of our new wharekai, Te Aongahoro, and we look forward to many more years and beyond.

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We're excited to be heading into Te Matatini 2019 and the next two weeks will be business as usual - spiritual, emotional, mental and physical preparation and fine-tuning to achieve the best out of our stage performance.

As a waka, we wish all our Te Arawa rōpū the best to take the magic of our people, bedazzle the onlookers, and bring home busloads of taonga!

Pararewha! Pararewha! Pararewha!

Jade Kameta for Te Hikuwai

Te Hikuwai at Te Arawa kapa haka regional competition. Photo / File
Te Hikuwai at Te Arawa kapa haka regional competition. Photo / File

How are you preparing for Te Matatini in the next three weeks?

Making sure that I'm physically, mentally and spiritually fit to deliver. Doing enough to keep up with all my younger cousins in the kapa.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Te Arawa have had some great losses over the past year. I am looking forward to seeing all the items composed in tribute to all those people.

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What is something that those in the audience can look forward to when watching your performance?

I think if we can do enough to impress our own koeke, who are our biggest critics, also our biggest supporters. I think the audience will enjoy our performance.

How is everyone feeling as the competition draws closer?

Our kaihaka are posting a lot more frequently on Facebook so I can tell that everyone's starting get excited as Te Matatini draws nearer.

We are a whānau, marae, community-based kapa. That's our strength and we hope to reflect that in our stand at Te Matatini.

Tenga Rangitauira for Ngāti Whakaue

Ngati Whakaue Pakeke at the first day of Te Arawa Kapa Haka Regional Festival. Photo / File
Ngati Whakaue Pakeke at the first day of Te Arawa Kapa Haka Regional Festival. Photo / File

How are you preparing for Te Matatini in the next two weeks?

Apart from cleaning the bracket, as most kapa will be doing at this point, health and kapa-bonding are key in leading up to nationals.

The last thing we want is someone who has been attending practices since late August 2018, to fall victim to an injury or illness that could have been prevented!

What are you most looking forward to this year?

A lot of our kaihaka have never performed at a Matatini competition so taking them away for the whole experience is going to be a highlight.

But I think as a group we will be most looking forward to being the 40 faces that represent our tribe for the first time in 35 years.

Our elders that will be at home or sitting in the crowd, this will be for them. Those that were not fortunate enough to make it to this stage, this will be for them.

Those who have passed since the 1983 performance, this will be for them. Those who have been loyal to the kapa through its ups and downs, such as our leader Aunty Pare Hakaraia and long-time performer Corine Mihaere, this will be for them.

What is something that those in the audience can look forward to when watching your performance?

Our number one goal is to be Whakaue through and through.

Over the past four years we have developed a traditional style based on our marae customs and the stories of old. So we hope people get a sense of our identity; who we are and where we come from.

We have also been working really hard on our vocals over the past two campaigns bringing in the amazing opera singer and music teacher, Elisha Hulton, to help in this department.

How is everyone feeling as the competition draws closer?

We are in a good place at the moment. Having finished our bracket last weekend there was an explosion of excitement and a sigh of relief from the kapa.

There is still a lot to do but we have the luxury of one more weekend to clean which will ease the pressure from the kapa, the tutors and our whānau.