Nelson based kapa haka group Te Whatukura will represent the region at the national championships next year.
The group won the regional competition held at Nelson College last night.
In second place were Blenheim group Te Rerenga o te Ra and in third place were Picton group Te Whanau o Waikawa.
Te Whatukura will go on as the top of the South Island representatives at the February 2013 Te Matatini National Festival in Rotorua.
Kapa haka group member Dayveen Stephens said the win was exciting.
"We definitely had fun. We were pleased with our performance and the celebration of kapa haka, and to be able to stand on stage and celebrate Maori culture and who we are as Maori people."
Ms Stephens, also the chairwoman of the Te Tau Ihu o te Waka Maori Culture Council said the group had practised for about 10 hours a week for the last two months to prepare for the competition.
"We're very glad we did what we did, but also glad it's over. It was a lot of hours and a lot of commitment."
Head judge Janis de Thierry said it had been hard to judge.
"It was very hard in that we judge things differently [as judges] and the performance is also a spiritual journey.
"So we don't judge that, we have to feel that."
All three groups had performed very well and the quality was fantastic, she said. "To be able to stand and do what we love and to be Maori, that's the biggest thing."
In looking for the winners, Ms de Thierry said they were looking for a group who would represent the people of the region.
"Somebody that will bring strength of character to the region, a group that stands and knows that they represent others, a people, a region, and one that will do that giving it a bit of mana."
- © Fairfax NZ News