Te waka Huia have overcome injury and loss to be crowned the best kapa haka group in New Zealand.
The West Auckland group took out the overall award at the 2013 Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival at the weekend.
This is the fifth time the group has won the Duncan McIntyre Trophy, since first competing in 1986, making them, along with Gisborne's Waihirere, the most successful kapa haka performers in the history of the competition.
Group leader Annette Wehi says the performance was a tribute to her in-laws, Dr Ngapo Wehi and Dr Pimia Wehi.
"It definitely was a tribute to our founder and co-leader. With our mum passing away around two years ago and our father who is ageing, our main aim was continue their legacy.
"Our haka focused on youth suicide, which is an important issue. We need to find strategies to get our young people talking again."
Led by Mrs Wehi and husband Tapeta Wehi, the performance was a family affair with many of their family members choreographing, composing the music and leading the group.
However several members suffered injuries during final rehearsals leaving them unable to perform which meant other members stepped up on the day to lead the team, Mrs Wehi says.
"We definitely had setbacks along the way. Tapeta fractured a rib on our last rehearsal weekend and another member had a torn calf muscle."
Mrs Wehi says kapa haka has come a long way throughout the country and conveys a strong message.
"It's not just about kapa haka but it's about leadership and looking after people and families.
"Kapa haka is really getting stronger around the country," she says.
A crowd of 15,000 people turned up to watch the performances.
The group beat nine other teams in the final.
Te Matatini chairman Selwyn Parata says the performance bar was lifted at this year's competition.
"There has been a real strengthening of identity and relationships. There's an air of positivity and happiness and everyone can see that in the faces of the performers - they are really enjoying it," he says.
Two other West Auckland teams, Nga Tumanako and Te Manu Huia, narrowly missed out on a place in the finals.
As winners of the competition, Te Waka Huia will represent New Zealand and Maori culture at significant events around the country and internationally until the next competition in 2015.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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