Wairoa kapa haka group Mātangirau paid tribute to their hometown, which was ravaged by Cyclone Gabrielle, during their Te Matatini performance.
They took the stage at Eden Park with their legs covered in mud they brought from Wairoa and stole the show by delivering a strong message.
“Incredibly powerful and a memorable performance for sure,” said one viewer on Twitter.
“A direct example (among many) of the intersection and relevancy of kapa haka on the pressing and current issues our communities are facing,” said another.
Mātangirau struggled to make it to Tāmaki Makarua in time for the festival. The brakes on their first bus failed and the second had to slowly travel over just reopened roads.
Manukura Wahine, Joylene Rohe-Karauria, told RNZ that the group had to resort to classic road trip games to keep themselves distracted from the long journey.
“We came on a school bus from home to Whakatāne, we played I spy at one part of the trip because it was so slow, but safe, but slow,” she said.
Eventually, another kapa haka group stepped in to save the journey. Tauranga’s Te Kapa Haka o Ngāti Ranginui rocked up with some vans to get Mātangirau to Auckland.
Wairoa was completely in the dark after the Cyclone hit, just a week before the festival kicked off.
“We had no type of contact, no phone lines, no media, no anything,” Manukura Tānē, Edward Karauria, told RNZ. “So we actually didn't know there was anything on, due to having no type of contact. Just living life and trying to help our families with the silt.”
Back home in Wairoa, whānau who would have normally made the journey instead packed into the local theatre to watch the group perform.
“So the nannies that did come, tears, [they] cried right through the whole thing. The whole crowd were just blown away," Lah Tipuna said.
"It’s something good for our town as well, something positive for our town."