Topic: Te Matatini Festival Beginnings

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Excerpts from the Daily Post

1st ever NZ Polynesian Festival, held 11th – 12th March 1972 in Rotorua.

The festival was planned to be held at Rotowhio Marae, Whakarewarewa.  DP 2nd March 1972

Opened by Governor-General Sir Arthur Porritt. The event was attended by the Ministers for Maori Affairs and Tourism. Mr McIntyre and Mr Walker, High Commissioners of Britain, Canada & Australia, embassies of USA, South Africa, Germany and the Netherlands.  Also in attendance Maori Queen, Te Atairangikahu and Bishop Manu Bennett. 

17 teams of 680 performers, 2 teams each from 8 Maori Districts, 2 Samoan teams from Auckland & Wellington. Teams from the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau were also participating.

10th March 1972 DP pg. 1

The Festival had to be transferred to the Sportsdrome due to wet weather forecast for the weekend.

This meant that limited seating was available of 3,350. Owing to the change of venue there would be 2000 less seats for teams and supporters. The organisers hope to provide closed circuit TV coverage of the event. The Festival was covered by Northland Television and would be shown at a later date.

12th March 1972, DP pg.1

Colourful opening to Festival’

The Sportsdrome was crammed to capacity and stiflingly hot with many fanning faces with their programmes.

The Formal welcome was on time at 10.00am. Sir Arthur & Lady Porritt were picked up at the airport by the Mayor Mr R. Boord and Mayoress Mrs P.W. Tapsell. 

The official party were welcomed by Mr R. Keepa and speeches were from Mr H. Rogers, Mr R Boord and Rev Kingi Ihaka. The speeches were followed by a hymn and karakia by Bishop Manu Bennett.

13th March 1972, DP pg. 1

Mr McIntyre announced a $6,500 grant from government to send the winning team ‘Waihirere from Tai Rawhiti, Gisborne to the 1st South Pacific Festival of Arts to be held in Suva, Fiji on 6th-20th May 1972.

‘Highlights from the first New Zealand Polynesian Festival Rotorua’ in Te Ao Hou 1st July 1973, pg.61

Excerpt from Reviewer Alan Armstrong.

“…speaking as one of the large and appreciative crowd who attended the festival, I must say that the domestic organisation reflected great credit on the Arawa people. It can have been no small task to feed and accommodate such a large number of groups and their supporters. What was particularly impressive was the smoothness of the change of venue when the weather made it impossible to stage the festival out of doors”

He goes on “There were bad patches of course – an Arawa powhiri group dragged from preparing a hangi to welcome the Governor-General and appearing on TV in singlets and shorts”

“The Honourable Duncan McIntyre conducted an impromptu sing-song to keep the audience entertained, while the judges had their dinner, keeping thousands of people waiting for the night performances”

NZ Polynesian FESTIVAL 1973

Held at Arawa Park.  Opened by Sir Dennis Blundell.

Attended by the Prime Minister Mr Kirk, Dame Te Atairangikahu attended a reception at Wahiao.

The Winning team was from Upper Hutt, Mawai Hakona Maori Club.

 This team were to then perform at the opening of the Sydney Opera House. From the Daily Post of 24/3/1973.

Locations for Festival after 1973 -

1975 Whangarei; 1977 Gisborne; 1979 Wellington; 1981 Auckland; 1983 Hastings; 1986 Christchurch; 1990 Waitangi; 1992 Ngaruawahia; 1994 Hawera; 1996 Rotorua; 1998 Trentham, 2000 Ngaruawahia; 2002 Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland); 2005 & 2007 Rangitane (Palmerston Nth); 2009 Mataatua; 2011 Te Tairawhiti; 2013 Rotorua ; 2015 Waitaha (Christchurch); 2017 Ngati Kahungungu (Hawkes Bay).

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Te Matatini Festival Beginnings


Fenton Street, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand

Latitude and Longitude coordinates: -38.1320911,176.25373119999995

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Date of Event:1972 - 1973