Kapa haka festival Te Matatini to go ahead next February, back-up plans in place if COVID-19 disrupts it

The beloved Te Matatini kapa haka festival is all-set to go ahead in Auckland next February, organisers have announced - but back-up plans are in place if COVID-19 spoils the party.

As it stands, the 50th anniversary of Te Matatini Herenga Waka Herenga Tangata National Kapa Haka Festival will take place at Eden Park from February 22-26, 2022.

But with the region currently sitting at COVID-19 alert level 4 - and the rest of the country at level 2 - event organisers acknowledge Delta may ruin their plans and force them to postpone the event.

"We know this is a favourite time of year in the Māori events calendar - whānau from all  over the motu come together to celebrate the very best of kapa haka," says Te Matatini chairman Selwyn Parata. 

"We want to ensure that the health and wellbeing of everyone involved in Te Matatini - from the volunteers to the performers and whānau that come to support - is protected.

"This is the time to ensure our loved ones are safe, so we are encouraging everyone to get  themselves and their whānau vaccinated."

Te Matatini's organising committee has developed three scenarios - Plan A, B and C - in  case of any alert level changes.  

Under Plan A, the festival will go ahead with the current dates if the whole country is at alert level  1 on October 29, 2021. 

"This decision date allows kapa haka teams enough time to prepare in the lead up to the festival," Te Matatini explains.

"The health and safety team who helped plan the operations for the America's Cup Regatta in Tāmaki Makaurau in March 2021, will also lend their expertise to assist Te Matatini during  this time."

Plan B sees the festival pushed back to April 2022 if the country is at alert level 2 or higher on October 29, allowing more flexibility and more preparation time for kapa haka  teams, if the alert levels continue to change.

Under Plan C, if the country is at alert level 2 or higher by December 14, the festival will be cancelled and pushed back to February 2023. If this happens, a new round of regional competitions will be held in 2022 to decide the new qualifying kapa haka teams for the 2023 festival.

Chief executive Carl Ross says these scenarios allow Te Matatini to move forward with confidence should there be a disruption, "while ensuring we tiakina te whakapapa and support our kapa haka".

"Te Matatini is seriously looking to the future, and what that might look like for our festival. We are exploring options on how we continue to present the festival during these ever changing times.

"One of those options is holding a virtual Te Matatini Festival but we will continue to explore other options as well. So anything is possible."