Dr Rawiri Taonui has a well-established reputation as an academic and commentator on Māori issues.    

Now, he's breaking new ground by competing at National Powerlifting Champs and is aiming to break national records and offer a positive health message to Māori men. 

He says it was about taking on a big and new challenge. 

"Tēnei tau, tomo ana au ki tōku tino kaumātuatanga, 60 ōku tau. Ka huri ki tētahi atu hākinakina, e whakatau ana me hāpai taumaha au."

Taonui took up powerlifting as a personal challenge and to set an example for Māori men.

Kāore ētahi o mātou e haere ki te tākuta, e haere ki te hohipera me ērā atu. Pīrangi au kia tū hei tauira mō te iwi Māori me ngā tāne Māori." 

Earlier in life, Taonui was a runner competing in the 200m, 400m, & 800m.

In recent times, he established himself as columnist, researcher and subscribes to the theory: a healthy body creates a healthy mind.  

"I work as a writer and as an advisor and those sorts of things and in the world of cultural politics. It helps to pursue a healthy sport to keep your head clear."

This is NZ's biggest nationals yet - total of 223 lifters ranging from youth to masters.

But Taonui says he didn't enter to make friends.

"He nui te māka hou me ērā atu, ko te kaupapa nui ka tū hei whakatauira mō tātou te iwi Māori. He kaupapa nui tō waiora, tō hauora."

The event ends today.