The annual speech competition for secondary school pupils is run by New Zealand’s Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA).
Nga Manu Korero Otago/ Southland co-ordinator Cherie Ford said alongside the national kapa haka competition, Nga Manu Korero was the largest event for Maori in New Zealand.
This year marked the 51st year of the national competition, she said. It was originally set up to encourage Maori pupils to speak English, but had now expanded to include four sections — junior and senior Maori speaking sections and junior and senior English speaking sections.
The English speaking section was only open to pupils of Maori descent, but the Maori speaking section was open to all pupils, Mrs Ford said.
Participants performed in front of a panel of judges and were marked on the content of their speech, their presentation and language skills, she said.
Organising committee member Neitana Tane said entries were still open, but as of Monday the committee had received more than 30 entries from 15 schools including James Hargest College (JHC), Te Wharekura o Arowhenua, Aurora College, Invercargill, South Otago High School, Balclutha, and St Peter’s College, Gore.
JHC pupils Kaytlin Tomlins, Meg O’Connell and Kiisharn Hodson are representing their school.
Kaytlin and Meg said they had been inspired to compete after watching the event in previous years.
‘‘I wanted to have my shot at it. I have been inspired to give my opinion and represent Hargest, and improve my confidence at public speaking,’’ Meg said.
Kaytlin said she had been practising every day for about four weeks.
‘‘I am really excited, but nervous at the same time. There are some really good speakers competing,’’ she said.
Mrs Ford said Thomas Aerepa-Morgan, of Te Wharekura o Arowhenua, who won the national senior impromptu section last year and was placed third overall, would be on the regional judging panel this year.
‘‘It is absolutely huge to have someone who has won the nationals in our region.’’
The winners of each section will represent Otago/Southland at the national competition in Whangarei in September.