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Waha Kōrero is an opportunity for native and highly proficient speakers of te reo Māori. This unique speech competition welcomes competitors to prepare their voices and minds to soar in a nationwide, celebratory event for people aged 18 and over.

Te reo Māori is a language rich in wit, allegory and human experience spanning centuries. Once, the language soared up the mountains and across the waterways of this landscape, as loud as a cacophony of bird song at dusk.   

After deliberate and sustained effort, te reo Māori is now a symbol of pride, a vehicle to unify all people of Aotearoa New Zealand and a taonga that places us uniquely on the world stage. 

In 2024 Te Taura Whiri is bringing a new kaupapa to Te Wiki o te reo Māori - Waha Kōrero.

Waha Kōrero is not a whaikōrero competition. It is a display of fast thinking, impromptu speeches on a set topic. It is open to all people - Māori and non-Māori. Ko te reo te take. 

The overall winner will take away a prize of $10,000. 

Submissions for Round One open at 8am on Monday 8 July and will close at 11.59pm on Sunday 28 July. 

Competition criteria

Waha Kōrero 2024 is open to everyone who meets the following criteria;  

  • Aged 18 years and over at the time of registering your application
  • Based in New Zealand OR if not living in New Zealand, you will cover the cost of flights if selected for the final in Te Whanganui-a-Tara
  • Has a high level of reo Māori proficiency as described in the fluency criteria.  
  • Available to compete in the online preliminary round (12th-23rd August 2024) and in person at the national final in Te Whanganui-a-Tara on the  21st September 2024. 
  • Please note: The final 12 entrants who make it to the final round must consent to undergo police vetting in order to participate. 

To be eligible for Waha Kōrero you must also be able to; 

  • Communicate easily, confidently and spontaneously or ‘off the cuff’ in Māori in everyday situations  
  • Show you have a wide vocabulary, and a good command of grammar,  reo Māori phrases, sayings and kīwaha (idiomatic language) 
  • Talk ‘back and forth’ with other Māori speakers for a long time without the need to shift into English   
  • Be widely understood by other proficient speakers of te reo Māori 
  • Discuss complex issues when it comes to topics you know about. 

Measuring language in any fluency is complicated. You do not need to have sat the Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori Level Finder Examination (LFE), but for a useful benchmark to describe attributes of fluency the Whakamātauria Tō Reo Framework from the (LFE) has been used to inform Waha Kōrero eligibility criteria. Level 4 is the minimum entry level.  

Please use the above description to assess your own eligibility and get in touch if you have any questions. 

Waha Kōrero is made up of three rounds, below is a high-level break down of each round. For all the specific details refer to our Entrant Handbook below.  

Round One: 

  • This round is open to anyone who meets the eligibility criteria.  
  • You will choose a topic from a list of pre-determined prompts and record your speech – 2 minutes is the time limit. 
  • Your speech will be judged against a set of criteria.  

Round Two: 

  • The top scoring 40 entries from Round One will advance to this round. 
  • Round Two will take place online, in a series of competitive sessions over the month of August.  
  • During the online session, you will be given two random prompts and will have 15 minutes to prepare your speech.  
  • You will then move into a virtual room with two judges and give a five-minute speech. 

Round Three: 

  • The top 12 entries from Round Two will advance into this final round.  
  • This round is an in-person event that will take place in Te Whanganui-a-Tara during Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. 
  • Finalists will take the stage in front of our panel of four judges. 
  • The winner will take home the ultimate prize of $10,000 and the mana of placing first, out of the whole of Aotearoa.  

Taonga to embellish your kōrero are allowed i.e. tewhatewha, mere, poi etc. But not necessary and do not correspond to additional marks. 

Waha Kōrero is a celebration of proficient speakers of te reo and their skills in impromptu kōrero, debate and quick thinking. It is not a demonstration of expertise in whaikōrero, karakia and whakapapa recitation.  

Though mihi, whakapapa or other formal Māori speech making tikanga are not discouraged, please note NO extra time is given for these things, and they are not included in the judging marksheet. 

NO use of cue cards 

There is no time allocated for waiata tautoko at the conclusion of the speech. 

NO use or profanity or extremely offensive sexual innuendo. 

NO hate speech.  

All conflicts of interests among participants must be declared at the point of registration or as soon as the person becomes aware of the conflict. For information about how conflicts of interest will be managed by judges, please see Judging Section.  

Judges’ decisions are final. 

Te Taura Whiri reserves the right to decline an entrants application, if that entry does not meet the full requirements and guidelines of the Waha Kōrero competition, or if any matter comes to light that may cause risk to Te Taura Whiri, its staff, or anyone else involved in the Waha Kōrero competition. 

Te Taura Whiri reserves the right to offer a spot in Round 2 or 3 to the next highest-scoring participant if an individual isn’t reasonably able to make themselves available for that Round. 

There are no exceptions to any of the declared rules in Waha Kōrero 2024. This is to ensure fairness for all entrants. 


Refer to our fluency guide above. It’s intended to provide a few measures that will help you know if you are ready for this competition. There is no one measure that can provide an objective yes or no answer, but at a minimum, you should comfortably fit in the 'conversational in te reo Māori’ space. You should also have a wide vocabulary and your reo should have an ease in how it is expressed.  

But also, don’t feel that you have to be at the highest level of language fluency to compete! If you’re still not sure. Get in touch with us, and we can discuss with you. 

The purpose of this competition is to celebrate and showcase te reo Māori. It is a reo Māori speech competition. As such, te reo Māori must be your primary language of communication. Heoi anō, allowances may be made by judges in a case where words or a short phrase from another language are used to illustrate a specific point.

E kāo! This competition is open to all New Zealanders. We know there are many beautiful non-Māori speakers of our reo rangatira who may be interested in contributing to this competition. Nau mai, haere mai!

There are a lot of moving parts in this competition and we can’t move things around for individual entrants. As such, if you are unavailable to attend, unfortunately we will have to offer your place to the next-highest placing entrant. Please do check your emails too, as we may make this decision for you if we don’t hear back from you regarding advancement to the next round!

E kāo! This competition is open to New Zealanders of all genders. This competition is not about whaikōrero, and it is not happening on a marae, as such, it has more general rules about who can participate.

If you have any particular requirements, please do get in touch with our team at [email protected] and we will let you know how we might be able to accommodate you!

Download the Waha Kōrero handbook

For all the specific details including eligibility criteria, judging and rules of the competition, check out our entrant's handbook.

Waha Kōrero Register Now

Follow the link below to see the submission portal, the prompt questions, and to make your entry. Uploading a prepared submission will only take a few minutes!