Hawke’s Bay is celebrating its first Matariki public holiday, Ngā Mata o te Ariki, this Friday 24 June with a plethora of events ranging from fireworks, to waka ama races and quieter remembrance celebrations. 

Matariki is a cluster of stars (Pleiades) that appears in the early morning sky in New Zealand during the mid-winter months, and Matariki rising pre-dawn is just one of many signs marking the start of the Māori Lunar New Year. 

Traditionally, Māori celebrated the appearance of Pleiades – and the start of their lunar calendar – by remembering those who had died, sowing seeds for crops and celebrating with feasts and the lighting of ritual fires. Spiritual experts known as tohunga interpreted the stars to predict the weather: clear, bright stars meant a warm, abundant season ahead. 

In modern New Zealand, Matariki is seen as a time to take stock and face the coming year with renewed vigour. For the first time it is a public holiday during which New Zealanders are invited to officially observe and learn about the tradition, remember their ancestors, share food, sing songs, tell stories and play music.

There are a myriad of events to celebrate Matariki during this long weekend in Hawke’s Bay. These include fireworks on 24 June that will light up the dark night sky at the showgrounds during a night of feasting, singing, dancing, kapa haka, bands, choirs and hip hop dancers and manu tukutuku – kite flying for tamariki. ​

On Saturday, June 25,  the Heretaunga Waka Ama Roopu hosts its annual Matariki event with waka teams from across the motu creating a magnificent spectacle as they compete on the Ngaruroro Moko (Clive River).

If you are looking for a quieter more reflective experience head to The Pond  in Flaxmere Park (on until Saturday June 25)  where you can mount a message remembering someone lost during the year or a wish of hope for the future on a waka lantern (provided) to float on the tranquil waters.  

To see our very comprehensive run-down of local events, go to BayBuzz’s complete listing. Or go here:




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