Every year at the Te Matatini festival, the call for volunteers, or Te Hpai, is made. This year’s event went off without a hitch, with many eager to raise their hands.
After three years of anticipation, Te Hpai’s head manager Rhera Herewini- Mulligan said she is thrilled to organise such an event.
“If you visit this place, Te Hpai will greet you at the gates and you’ll hear Mori being spoken. And you’ll be able to tell when you’ve reached Te Matatini, Herewini- Mulligan explains.
Over 400 volunteers, ranging in age from teenagers to adults, work at Te Matatini. Some are drivers on buggies for kaumtua pickups and drops, and some are watering trees nearby. Some are on gates letting people in and out to their proper seats, giving tourists information, and picking up trash.
All regions of Aotearoa have sent volunteers.
Te Taitokerau, Kahungunu, and Te Tairaawhiti all experienced flooding last week. But, Herewini- Mulligan continues, “Volunteers still wanted to come and help the event first, uplift the event second, and care for the multitudes that had arrived third.”
Te Mania Koia, a native of Te Aupuri, assisted with questions and directed guests to their seats.
As a fan zone usher, Koia adds, “I help direct whanau into their seats and ensure they have a wonderful time.”
Matt Hew Max, a coworker who is from Samoa and the Cook Islands, seized the chance to volunteer so he could visit Te Matatini and help a fantastic kaupapa.
Hew Max remarks, “Putting in mahi here doesn’t even feel like mahi.”
Merle Takimoana, a member of Ngti Maniapoto, is participating in her first Te Matatini. She serves as the entrance gatekeeper, allowing guests to sit in front of the main performance stage. She spoke Mori, which resonated with the visitors, so everyone who entered her gate heard her before they saw her.
Being a volunteer, Takimoana adds, “I love getting to know other whanau from different rohe and watching the other rohe kapa haka, it’s all about kapa haka.”
Tamahana Leaf, from Ngpuhi and Ngti Kahungunu, took the decision to travel to Te Matatini despite having whanau who were severely affected by Cyclone Gabrielle last week. To assist the kaumtua in getting around the Eden Park-Ng Ana Wai site, he is operating one of the buggies.
“I enjoy speaking to our kuia and koroua in te reo Mori. Te Matatini is a lovely occasion for all, according to Leaf.
And one of Leaf’s passengers was Mere Komene from Ngpuhi, Ngti Tuwharetoa, Tainui, who was grateful to get a transport for her group of kaumtua since they had been lost at the large venue for more than an hour.
We had been missing for long time and would still be lost if Rawe Te Hpai hadn’t found us.
After the finals on Saturday, Herewini-Mulligan hopes that people will leave Te Matatini saying, “Wow, that was one wonderful event.”