From a small school to the world stage - Te Wharekura o Ngāti Rongomai is proving it's a breeding ground for superstars.

In recent weeks, six students (tauira) have represented the kura at a national level with kapa haka and rugby.

Rugby player Hamiora Moeke said the school had taught him many lessons he can now apply to everything in his world.

"It has created a big impact on our sportsmanship. It has taught us more respect for our families and our team."


Hamiora played rugby alongside Te Whetu Moeke, 13, and Tyrone Te Rangi, 12 at a competition in Queenstown, beating Auckland Grammar in the final.

The three boys have been playing rugby beside each other for six years. It is the best game in the world, if you ask them.

"The teams we [played] in the finals were six times champions, it made us really nervous until we got on to the field. Then we just gave it all," Hamiora said.

Tyrone Te Rangi joined Hamiora and Te Whetu Moeke in the rugby competition in Queenstown. Photo / Supplied
Tyrone Te Rangi joined Hamiora and Te Whetu Moeke in the rugby competition in Queenstown. Photo / Supplied

Te Wharekura o Ngāti Rongomai was established in 2008 after the realisation that the iwi was endangered - so to speak.

Previously people had identified as Ngāti Pikiao when competing in kapa haka competitions but once the kura was established the iwi grew.

Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai placed second at Te Matatini this year.

The success rubbed off on student Paniwaka Curtis, 14, who performed moe rākau with Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai in Sydney recently.

"It is something inside you that comes alive when you are on the stage performing. Representing who you are, your ancestors and your whānau is the best feeling."


Curtis said her parents and her aunty, the late Talei Morisson, had pushed her to grow with her haka.

"I wouldn't be here without the school, though, as it really helps us to grow with te reo Māori," she said.

"The kura helps me to improve who I am and has made me see my worth. I know now that I would like to go to uni and get a scholarship to play basketball and the school has helped me realise that."

Starting his haka journey young, Wepiha Webster, 10, is a passionate leader who was crowned Manukura Tāne at the Te Mana Kuratahi Primary Schools Kapa Haka Nationals.

"I didn't expect to win because of my age, and there were a lot of kids there that were in intermediate.

"But I just feel proud and I am thankful for Tuki [principal] and my dad. He was a leader once so he taught me basically everything I know."

Webster said the school taught him to go down the right path and not through the long grass to ensure te ao Māori thrived.

Poutiriao Vaka said the kura constantly pushed him to ensure he never gave up while trying to achieve his goals.

Confidence exudes from the 10-year old, who chose to play rugby when he started school and brought home a first-place trophy playing for Rotoiti this year - but there is a key message that pushes him through:

"Just remember where you come from and who you are."