Te Upoko o Te Waka Maori Cultural Council started from a need to establish a Kapa Haka entity in the late 1960s to promote the development of Kapa Haka in the Top of the South of Te Waipounamu.
Te Waipounamu Maori Cultural Council was already established for the development of Kapa Haka in Te Waipounamu which included three Rohe. This Council was made up of delegates from all of the Teams who affiliated to the Culture Council which set the rules and guidelines for Kapa Haka Competitions in the region. Competitions were held annually. Teams’ from Te Upoko started competing in Te Waipounamu competitions in 1971.
The regional boundaries for Te Upoko o Te Waka are in the West as far south as Haast to the Conway (South of Kaikoura) in the east.
In 1972 a national body, the Polynesian Festival was established. This forum allowed senior groups representing each Rohe to compete at a national level. Each region held regional competitions to select a winner. The winner was then required to participate in Te Waipounamu competitions followed by the national competitions. Waikawa Maori Cultural Party was the first team from the region to participate in the Polynesian Festival. This changed in later years to winning only their regional competitions due to cost and a constitutional change in the legal entities. Waikawa competed in 4 Polynesian festivals with Kia Ngawari representing the region from 1979 to 1996. In the early years groups that made up Council were Waikawa Cultural Party, Ngawhatu, Ngati Wairau, Tapuaenuku, Motueka, with additions of Te Rangatahi o Wairau, Kia Ngawari, to be followed on by Te Wai Tawhiri, Te Atawhai, Omaka-Honomai, Poharoa, Te Kupenga, Te Rangatahi, Nga Ngaru o Kaikai a Waro in the senior section. The activeness of each group changed over time with the change of membership. Today the senior groups are: Te Whatukura, Te Atakahika, Te Rerenga o Te Ra Te Whanau o Tuia Te Matangi, Kia Ngawari.
In 1997 the constitution of the Council was re vamped and a name change occurred to Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui Maori Culture Council. This name originated from the Runanganui o Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui (9 Iwi in the Rohe) in 1989.
The Polynesian festival changed to Aotearoa Traditional Maori Performing Arts Society in 1996 then a relaunch was done in in 2003 with the new name “Te Matatini”.
The Culture Council is affiliated to Te Matatini which allows winners in the senior section to perform on the national stage. Since the revamping of Te Matatini in 2003 Te Whatukura have had the honour to perform on behalf of the region.
The Culture receives regional funding to promote and run hui, and wananga to develop the art form of Kapa Haka in the region. This has seen a definite increase in participation.