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Wonder Woman, Batman, green-haired clowns and more have descended upon Invercargill, as the annual Relay for Life has begun.

Hundreds of people in all manner of colourful costumes made their way to Rugby Park on a warm Saturday to take part in various events at the stadium, with the goal of raising money for cancer research.

The event wraps up on Sunday.

A total of 73 teams took part in Saturday's events, including five primary schools and three high schools.

At a tent for the team from Environment Southland, report secretary Patrice Budd wore a purple sash designating that she had survived cancer.

Budd had cervical cancer, but has been cancer-free for 23 years.

"It's in everybody's lives, cancer," she said.

"They need funds to do more research."

The event kicked-off at 12pm, with an opening and survivors and carers lap. Then, throngs of people in all manner of attire - some even on metal stilts - began walking in a circle around the stadium.

With 24 members on the Environment Southland team, Budd said a new team member would be walking around the stadium every hour to raise funds.

"We've been part of the Relay for Life team for eight years."

Budd said there was another personal reason for taking part: her husband, Ernie Budd, died of bowel cancer.

Cancer is the leading cause of death of New Zealanders, according to the Ministry of Health.

One in three Kiwis will either have cancer in their lifetimes or have close friends or family with cancer.

Southland Tramping Club member Raewynne Daly said it was important to take part.

"Everyone here knows someone who has or has had cancer," she said.

"We need a cure."

Daly was by a tent near the main grandstand that the tramping club had for the fourth year.  Near her, cancer survivor Pamela Simpson agreed that raising money to help find a cure for cancer was of the utmost importance.

There was another reason to attend, too, she said.

"'It's good exercise."

A number of other events also took place at Rugby Park on Saturday. At the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) tent, hairdressing student and 2015 Maori Leadership Award Recipient Chloe Heteraka shaved the head of Southland Stags prop and former New Zealand Under-17 player Morgan Mitchell to raise funds for cancer research.

Money raised by Relay for Life went to the Cancer Society. Cancer Society Southland co-ordinator Lyndal Ludlow said she hoped $150,000 could be raised through the course of the weekend.

The idea of the Relay For Life dates back to 1985, when surgeon Dr Gordon Klatt​ ran and walked 130km (81 miles) on a track for 24 hours, raising $27,000 for the American Cancer Society.

In New Zealand, the first Relay for Life was held in 2001 in Palmerston North.

More than four million people are expected to take part in more than 6000 Relay for Life events around the world in 2016.

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