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Region united by haka

By Hayley Gastmeier and Emily Norman

Wairarapa made history today, claiming back the Guinness World Record haka for New Zealand.

Whether it is made official or not is still to be decided – however, that’s almost beside the point.

An estimated 7000 Wairarapa school students packed out the turf at Trust House Memorial Park in Masterton for the midday attempt.

For Masterton spectators, it was as if time stood still as the children passionately performed Ko Wairarapa – a haka written specifically for the region by South Wairarapa district councillor Paora Ammunson in the late 1980s.

The previous record was set by 4028 French rugby fans at the Stade Amedee-Domenech in France on September 27, 2014, toppling the previous record of 3,264 in New Zealand in 2008.

Organisers said they could not remember another time when 7000 Wairarapa people had come together for a single cause like this.


Video: Hayley Gastmeier, Emily Norman, and NZ Herald


The idea to bring the record home had sprung from Masterton Intermediate School principal Russell Thompson.

“In terms of what we have achieved, as a collection of schools and whanau, it’s just been absolutely outstanding,” he said.

He “hoped” the region had made history.

“At the moment we can’t just say this is how many [people] we’ve got.

“We’ve got to do lots of checking of sheets, making sure a group of 50 students within each school group was actually performing for the full five minutes.

“We have to make sure that all our numbers add up, and I’m very, very certain – I don’t want to say I’ll bet my house on it but – we’ve broken the record of 4028 quite comfortably, and it’s probably a case of did we get 5000, 6000, or 7000.”

Mr Thompson was “very proud” of all students who participated, “from early childhood, right through to year 13”.

“It’s been awesome.”

He approached Wairarapa REAP’s Trudy Sears to help bring his vision to life, and she organised the massive event.

Leading the record haka attempt were MIS students Matai Ammunson, 12, Rocco Thompson, 13, and Kortez Paku, 12.

The trio played a vital role in bringing the region up to scratch for the challenge by travelling to other schools and pre-schools and teaching the students the specific haka.

They said almost a solid year of practice had gone into today’s effort.

Before the world record attempt, Ngati Mahanga’s Rocco said he “hoped to see everyone going hard and participating”.

Matai, of Ngati Kahungunu and Te Arawa, said the attempt “would probably go viral” and if the goal was achieved he would be very proud.

Kortez, of Ngati Kahungunu, said the biggest challenge had been teaching the performance to the “little kids”.

“We made a haka video for the real far away schools to show them how to do it,” the boys said.

Rangitane kaumatua Mike Kawana, who opened the world record attempt with a karakia, said the result was “amazing”.

“You had it pictured in your mind, you had it going through your head, but just seeing it, and seeing all the kids getting into it, that was awesome,” he said.

“We may not see it again for a long time.”

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the “mighty performance” was an outstanding experience to witness.

“It was absolutely awesome, and it shows that we stand together as a region with our own haka.

“It’s been a great day for Wairarapa.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier was “absolutely stoked for the kids, stoked for the community, and stoked for Wairarapa” to have made a world record.

“It consisted of amazing organisation, and thanks to all the all the people involved… It’s been just incredible, well done.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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