Thursday, 15 March 2018

NZ Polynesian Festival to Te Matatini in Rotorua

1st ever NZ Polynesian Festival 

Held 11th – 12th March 1972 in Rotorua.

Excerpts from the Daily Post :
The festival was planned to be held at Rotowhio Marae, Whakarewarewa.  DP 2nd March 1972
Opened by Governor-General Sir Arthur Porritt. The event was attended by the Ministers for Maori Affairs and Tourism. Mr McIntyre and Mr Walker, High Commissioners of Britain, Canada & Australia, embassies of USA, South Africa, Germany and the Netherlands.  Also in attendance Maori Queen, Te Atairangikahu and Bishop Manu Bennett. 

17 teams of 680 performers, 2 teams each from 8 Maori Districts, 2 Samoan teams from Auckland & Wellington. Teams from the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau were also participating.

10th March 1972 DP pg. 1
The Festival had to be transferred to the Sportsdrome due to wet weather forecast for the weekend.
This meant that limited seating was available of 3,350. Owing to the change of venue there would be 2000 less seats for teams and supporters. The organisers hope to provide closed circuit TV coverage of the event. The Festival was covered by Northland Television and would be shown at a later date.

12th March 1972, DP pg.1
Colourful opening to Festival’
The Sportsdrome was crammed to capacity and stiflingly hot with many fanning faces with their programmes.

Rotorua Photo News "new Sportsdrome is open, behind the Rotorua Museum", 1964.
The Formal welcome was on time at 10.00am. Sir Arthur & Lady Porritt were picked up at the airport by the Mayor Mr R. Boord and Mayoress Mrs P.W. Tapsell. 
The official party were welcomed by Mr R. Keepa and speeches were from Mr H. Rogers, Mr R Boord and Rev Kingi Ihaka. The speeches were followed by a hymn and karakia by Bishop Manu Bennett.

13th March 1972, DP pg. 1
Mr McIntyre announced a $6,500 grant from government to send the winning team ‘Waihirere from Tai Rawhiti, Gisborne to the 1st South Pacific Festival of Arts to be held in Suva, Fiji on 6th-20th May 1972.

‘Highlights from the first New Zealand Polynesian Festival Rotorua’ in Te Ao Hou 1st July 1973, pg.61
Excerpt from Reviewer Alan Armstrong.
“…speaking as one of the large and appreciative crowd who attended the festival, I must say that the domestic organisation reflected great credit on the Arawa people. It can have been no small task to feed and accommodate such a large number of groups and their supporters. What was particularly impressive was the smoothness of the change of venue when the weather made it impossible to stage the festival out of doors”

He goes on “There were bad patches of course – an Arawa powhiri group dragged from preparing a hangi to welcome the Governor-General and appearing on TV in singlets and shorts”

“The Honourable Duncan McIntyre conducted an impromptu sing-song to keep the audience entertained, while the judges had their dinner, keeping thousands of people waiting for the night performances”

NZ Polynesian FESTIVAL 1973 

Held at Arawa Park.  The festival was officially opened by Sir Dennis Blundell followed by a speech by the Prime Minister Mr Kirk.


Arawa Park Racecourse, Rotorua. Ref: WA-36320-F.
 Alexander Turnbull Library/records/23529887

Excerpt from Mr Kirk’s speech:
His first announcement was that “the winner of the festival will perform at opening of the Sydney Opera House in October of this year (1973). He went on to say “The festival was a creative expression of the hopes of people…what they have been and what they are going to be… Maori people could be compared to a canoe in a harbour getting ready for a journey to another land. Before departing the crew has to know where the canoe has been and what it has done. The festival is like the harbour and the people are the canoe setting out on a path through society, they must know where they are going and what they have don, and what they have been”

The next speech was from Minister of Maori and Island Affairs, Mr Rata. In Te Reo and English.
He announced that “government was giving serious consideration to the establishment of a school for Maori music and that of the Pacific Islands… would like to see the establishment of a centre with emphasis on the music of New Zealand. Of a standard suitable for both under-graduate and post-graduate studies to be carried out there. “

The festival photographs appeared in the Daily Post on 26th March 1973 pg. 1, 3 and 7.

There are more articles that document comments from Mr Rata, Mr A.M. (Murray) Linton, Mayor of Rotorua, Mr H.R. Lapwood M.P for Rotorua, Dr P.H. Jones President of the NZ Maori Council and Mr Young M.P for Taranaki, regarding the standard of the performances this year.


The Winning team was from Upper Hutt, Mawai Hakona Maori Club. A photograph appears on Pg.3 of Mr Rata presenting the McIntyre Trophy to Mr K. Tukukino. 

More photographs can be found here http://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/19646 or Read the book "Mawai Hakona of Upper Hutt by Patricia Raney. Available in the Maori Collection at 781.62z RAI

Locations for Festival after 1973

1975 Whangarei; 1977 Gisborne; 1979 Wellington; 1981 Auckland; 1983 Hastings; 1986 Christchurch; 1990 Waitangi; 1992 Ngaruawahia; 1994 Hawera; 1996 Rotorua; 1998 Trentham, 2000 Ngaruawahia; 2002 Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland); 2005 & 2007 Rangitane (Palmerston Nth); 2009 Mataatua; 2011 Te Tairawhiti; 2013 Rotorua ; 2015 Waitaha (Christchurch); 2017 Ngati Kahungungu (Hawkes Bay). 

"In 1983 the Polynesian Festival became the Aotearoa Traditional Māori Performing Arts Festival and teams from other Pacific Island nations were no longer eligible to compete. 

In 2004 the Aotearoa Traditional Māori Performing Arts Festival was again renamed, as Te Matatini o te Rā national festival, held every two years. The name ‘matatini’ (’many faces’) was coined by Dr Wharehuia Milroy in reference to the number and diversity of the participants.  

In 2010 Te Matatini once again became an international event when a team from Perth ‘Manawa Mai Tawhiti were eligible to compete after defeating 8 other Australian Kapa Haka teams".

Valance Smith, 'Kapa haka – Māori performing arts - Urban groups and formal competitions', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/kapa-haka-maori-performing-arts/page-4 (accessed 6 March 2018)