Hawke's Bay kapa haka groups found just getting to Te Matatini a huge challenge

For two kapa haka groups from Hawke's Bay, just getting to the 2023 national kapa haka festival in Auckland, Te Matatini, has been a huge challenge.

And with the destruction caused by Cyclone Gabrielle still fresh in their minds, performing on stage has taken on a whole new meaning.

The Waiata Tira is a choral-like song that helps groups to settle their nerves and showcase the harmonious blends of voices.

It's the first item before kicking into the six other disciplines.

And with just 25 minutes to perform, the defending champs, Ngā Tūmanako from Tāmaki Makaurau, had to really give it their all.

"The pressure of being the reigning champion has been hard to shake," Ngā Tūmanako male leader Kawariki Morgan told Newshub.

The group has held the longest reign due to COVID-19 as Te Matatini was delayed not once but twice.

Morgan said they wanted to really enjoy the moment.

"We had fun up on stage and at the end of the day, we had five months of practice. At least you get that. It's in the hands of the judges now," Morgan said.

For two groups affected by Cyclone Gabrielle in Hawke's Bay, Tamatea Arikinui and Mātangirau, on Thursday it was simply about getting on stage.

"Ki au nei i whakatutuki ngā wawata i hiahia nei mātou, ko Ngā whakaaro nui kei te kāinga.

"I think we completed the mission despite our thoughts being back at home," Joylene Rohe-Karauria, Mātangirau’s Manukura Wahine or female leader, told Newshub.

Their family in Wairoa, which is a town under mud, watched their performance at their local movie theatre.

Rohe-Karauria said the performance was for their whānau.

"We said from the start that our hau kāinga (home people) was our fuel today and we've maintained that all the way here," she said."We hear it's raining at home so we are eager to get back to the whānau before any other roads close."

Their message to their whanāu was: "E mihi ana ki a koutou te kāinga ka nui te aroha. Shout out to you guys at home, we love you. See you soon.

And no doubt that aroha has been felt.

Hawke's Bay kapa haka groups found just getting to Te Matatini a huge challenge