Thousands turned up to Wellington's Westpac Stadium early on Thursday to get the best spot for what is known as the World Cup of Māori performing arts.
Doors opened for Te Matatini at 7am but many arrived at 5am to secure a position close to the stage to watch their favourite group perform.
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Up to 60,000 people are expected to attend the four day competition.
Thousands, including the Māori king, turned out for the powhiri at Waitangi Park to mark the start of the festival on Wednesday.
Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival runs for four days from Thursday to Sunday.
Forty-six teams from around the country and Australia will compete, with each performing for about half an hour.
Thirty-nine judges will watch their every move, from their entrance, waiata (singing), haka, Piki and whaikōrero (speeches).
It’s also a huge win for the Wellington economy with many hotels - and all marae - fully booked.
This is the first time the festival has been held at a stadium in a major city - demonstrating just how popular kapa haka has become.