The top Rangitāne haka team, Kairanga, is putting its reputation on the line by disbanding and spreading across three groups in an effort to get more performers to the national competition.
Haka tutor and previous Kairanga member, Kelsi Te Peeti says, “The bar has been raised in terms of the competition in this region.”
Kairanga Koropiha Kiore has taken out Rangitāne regionals since 2014. Their absence this year will make way for Huia Ahorau, Te Tini o Rehua and Te Reureu who are all tutored by past Kairanga members.
Te Peeti says, “We all supported the idea to start our own groups in our different suburbs within Palmerston North.”
Huia Ahorau was set up in the low socio-economic area of Highbury in an effort to bring the Māori community together.
Another haka tutor and previous Kairanga member, Lewis Karaitiana, says, “There's a lot of poverty here and many of those who suffer are Māori. We knew this would be a good way to bring the Māori community together to be immersed in a Māori setting.”
Six groups are set to take the stage this weekend in Palmerston North, with two groups advancing to Te Matatini. They hope to eventually see ten groups stand so that national representation can increase to three.
“Our main goal is to lift the caliber of kapa haka but we also hope to see more Rangitāne descendants coming home and getting involved for the benefit of Tangata Rau,” says Karaitiana.
Winners aside, raising the caliber of haka and embracing Māori culture in the Manawatū, Wairarapa and Horowhenua regions will be the ultimate prize.