A significant event on the Tūhoe calendar, Te Hui Ahurei a Tūhoe marks its 45th anniversary this weekend. The festival, which is one of NZ's oldest iwi events, takes centre stage in Ruatoki again this year with the aim of moving Ngāi Tūhoe forward.
Descendants of the mist maiden Hinepukohurangi gather at dawn.
“This ceremony commemorates those Tūhoe who've passed on and those Tūhoe who've yet to come. Through all this, it's our language that keeps us strong when we stand on our marae,” says Wikamaua Hiakita, Ngāti Raka.
Chairman for Taunuke Kororangi, Pou Temara says it’s all about the next generation, “I'm certain that our children will continue on the legacy of this festival and the iwi. By right this is now their chance to step up.”
“This year is different because we've lost some of our elders who led the event. It was those people who planted the seed into us, the next generation,” says Whitiaua Ropitini from the Mātaatua ki Rotorua group.
Te Hui Ahurei a Tūhoe is held every two years to gather the tribe to celebrate and preserve their traditions.
Host Committte facilitatopr, Hukarere Purewa says, “The difference this year for our host committee and volunteers is the passing of our elders. That's a big deal to us.”
Tomorrow the adult kapa haka competition will start, while today it's all about the children.
“There are many new faces this year to find their identity,” says Te Reia Heurea from Ngāti Tawhaki.
Around 20,000 are expected to descend on Ruatoki this weekend.