The masses have assembled in Wellington for Ngā Manu Kōrero.
For the duration of this week, schools will compete for the honour of hanging the names of Pei Te Hurinui, Korimako, Rāwhiti Īhaka and Turi Carroll in their halls.
This year also has extra significance being the 50th anniversary of the competition.
Paora Trimm says, “This competition helps prep them for leadership roles within the workplace and beyond the stage.”
The hosts and the winners' trophies met face-to-face today at the base of Porirua. The top spot is always the goal. But for a former winner, things are much simpler.
Tamati Waaka says, “That's the goal, to further the language.”
In the past 50 years, many former winners have gone on to be great orators and iwi leaders.
Trimm says, “When you look at all the well-known people who have won, you realise the value in this competition.”
Te Kepa Stirling says, “Some of the winners from years past have now become judges.”
Waaka says, “Mate, the standard has gone through the roof since my time!”
When this competition first began, there was just an English section.
But as time passed, they added both an impromptu section for the seniors and a Māori language section. That section now holds the most weight.
But the base is still the same, a chance to let these speaking birds fly.
Stirling says, “It gives our kids an opportunity to express their thoughts on current issues like the flag.”
The competition starts on Wednesday.