A television drama series made in Rotorua starts on prime-time television tonight, telling the stories of Maori legends mainly from Te Arawa.
Kairakau is a nine-part Maori Television series that showcases Maori weaponry skills in battle scenes and is made by Rotorua production company Velvet Stone Media.
The series is in te reo Maori with subtitles and has been filmed mainly in the Rotorua area using about 30 local actors and 35 production crew members. Expert kapa haka leader Wetini Mitai-Ngatai is the choreographer and has put together battle scenes using traditional Maori weaponry including taiaha, koikoi, patu and mere.
Producer and Velvet Stone Media owner Lara Northcroft said the idea behind Kairakau came from the show's director, Rangi Rangitukunoa.
"He wanted to put something together that brings to life the stories of our tupuna (ancestors) that had been in our history books for so long."
Putting together a drama series was a different tack for the production company because it wanted to do more than just documentaries, Ms Northcroft said.
The casting call was put out nearly two years ago and the series was filmed between February and May last year. It has been held to run this year as part of Maori Television's new season.
If the ratings were high enough, funding would be made available for a second series, she said.
A trailer of the series has been used on social media to increase hype around the launch and already it had more than 200,000 views, she said.
Mr Mitai-Ngatai said during some battles it wasn't known exactly what happened so he had to create what they would have looked like.
"The importance of this is to see what made them tick and why they got into those combats and what they were thinking during those combats."
He said he drew a lot of the lead actors from kapa haka groups given they were already skilled in weaponry, spoke te reo and were physically fit.
Ms Northcroft said a lot of research went into the series to ensure it was true to history.
"Everyone has their own version of the stories so we wanted to go to the right families to make sure everyone was okay we were going to be telling the stories."
Given the series had a low budget, most of the episodes were filmed in native bush or geothermal areas around Rotorua, including Te Puia, Tarawera, Rotoiti, Okareka and Tikitapu (Blue Lake). However there were others based on stories from tribes in Tauranga, Taupo and Hawkes Bay.