This year Te Matatini has a new theme inspired by the legend of Māui's fish, whose head comprises the Wellington region in Māori mythology.
Mana whenua say the legend encapsulates the pioneering spirit that saw Polynesian ancestors settle across the world.
Wellington Kapa Haka Society chairperson Kura Moeahu says three major iwi of the capital brought their ideas to the table and Māui was chosen as the most iconic figure.
“The legend of Māui can be recognised among other local tribes here who connect to that history, such as Ngāti Toa people, Te Ātiawa and other iwi of Taranaki," says Moehu, “Hence, this is an appropriate concept for Te Matatini ki te Ao.”
Paddlers from Te Ātiawa will also feature at the opening ceremony of the event on Queens Wharf.
During the ceremony, the paddlers will use traditional waka to illustrate the legends of Māui and Polynesian peoples' legacy as renowned sailors throughout the Pacific.
Moeahu says this is part of the host's connection to East Coast iwi, who also paid homage to Māui, portraying his quest to slow the sun down.
“Te Matatini ki te Rā Festival (2011) in Gisborne captured the essence of what we’re all about.”