Archives For Matariki

Winter was an exciting time for whale watchers in Wellington, and a busy time for DOC.

Continue Reading...

Celebrating Matariki

 —  20/06/2013

When Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the Earth mother, were separated by their children, the God of the winds—Tawhirimatea—became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.

For Māori, the rising of these stars (called Matariki – ‘the eyes of God’), is celebrated by giving gratitude to Papatūānuku, practicing whakawhanaungatanga (establishing relationships and connections with others) and valuing manaakitanga (hospitality and kindness).

Matariki in the night sky

Known as the Māori New Year, Matariki is also a time to give respect to the unique land we live on; a time of growth, to plant new trees and crops; to gather with whānau and friends and to reflect on what has been and what is yet to come. A time of new beginnings.

Traditionally, the success of the following season’s crops would be determined by Matariki. The brighter the stars, the warmer the season and the more plentiful the crops would be.

The flying of kites at a Matariki celebration. Photo: Chris Gin | CC BY NC-ND 2.0.

The flying of kites at a Matariki celebration

“In days gone by, Māori used the concept of manaaki (care) of the natural resources to survive,” says DOC’s Pouwhakahaere Joe Harawira.

“For Māori, sustainability of resources was crucial to our survival. Our people had to adapt to the sometimes harsh and inhospitable conditions that were encountered upon arrival to Aotearoa. This was the time where they learned how to live, to breathe, to know and to understand how to live with the environment; how to co-exist. They wore the mantle of the land with dignity and respect, hearkened to the ways of nature, appreciated the elements, and speculated the cosmos. Therefore, the environment and its care are at the forefront of the celebrations around Matariki”.

To get in on the action and celebrate this time of new beginnings, bring friends and family along to one of the many events around the country. Eventfinda has a good list to choose from, and the Matariki Festival website has ideas for how you can celebrate.

Matariki is a time to plant new trees and crops

Star gazing

Matariki is a set of nine stars that appears in New Zealand’s sky in the shortest days of the year marking the beginning of traditional Māori New Year celebration, which takes place in June or July at the same time with the rise of the new moon.

So, set the alarm for around 5.30 am, wrap up warmly and drag yourself outside. The best time to see Matariki is about half an hour before dawn.

1. Find the pot (the bottom three stars of the pot are called tautoru, or Orion’s Belt).

2. To the left of the pot, find the bright orange star, Taumata-kuku (Alderbaran).

3. Keep going left from Taumata-kuku until you find a cluster of stars. That is Matariki. You may be able to see the individual stars among the cluster, but if it’s a bit fuzzy, look just below or above it and they will appear clearer.

4. Get comfy and spend a few moments reflecting on the year that was and the year to come.

Matariki signals change—preparation and making plans to take action. We appreciate our whenua and celebrate the diversity of life. We learn about who came before us, our history and our heritage. Not only do we acknowledge what we have, we acknowledge what we have to give.

Pre-dawn sky. Image courtesy of irkstyle,

The best time to see Matariki is about half an hour before dawn.

By Christine Elers, Teacher at Hāpaitia Kōhanga Reo

Thanks to the initiatives of the iwi authority for Ngāti Kauwhata in the Feilding/Manawatū area, the plight of the whio came to our attention at Hāpaitia Kōhanga Reo in 2012 .

Two whio swimming in a river.


Our kōhanga reo operates with a Kauwhata-Raukawa Māori world view.  It’s common to hear our children talking about their experiences at their marae, singing about the appearance of Matariki (Pleiades) in the winter sky, and our kinship ties to the Kīngitanga.  Knowing that the endangered whio duck inhabits our Oroua river meant the ‘Save the Whio’ was a project that we just had to be involved in.

Over 90% of our whānau have whakapapa or genealogical connections to Ngāti Kauwhata and Ngāti Raukawa ki te tonga.  Our children and whānau have strong, spiritual connections to the whenua (land) and the awa (river) of this urban and rural community.  We honour and nurture these connections in many ways.

The kohanga reo children sing at the Feilding Farmers’ Market.

Singing at the Feilding Farmers’ Market

Our children, like many young children love to sing.  In 2012 during Whio Awareness Month, the organisers of the Feilding Farmers’ Market kindly allowed our children to perform kapahaka to raise funds to help save the whio on the Oroua river. Our children raised nearly $100 from their 8 minute performance. Our parents got involved by helping our children make placards and information sheets about the whio for the public, by taking front row seats to proudly watch their children, and by donating to the cause.  We decided that we will be involved in helping the whio on the Oroua river every year!

Whio Awareness Month came around again in March 2013. This time our tamariki helped bake blueberry muffins, and we offered a muffin and a waiata to organisations in Feilding as another fundraising activity for the whio.  Many thanks go to the Manchester House Social Services, the Manawatū District Council, Te Runanga o Raukawa – Feilding and North Street School for hosting our children for this event.  These organisations collectively donated over $200 to assist the whio.

To acknowledge our support, the Department of Conservation kindly gave our children a stuffed toy whio.  We have named her Pio the Whio. If a child is having an emotional moment, they take solace in the mutual comfort of Pio the Whio.

The children sing a song near Pio the soft toy whio.

Singing a waiata for Pio the whio

The children understand that we all are responsible to tiaki or look after the whio in the wild. In the future we hope to make a trip to see the whio in its natural habitat on the Oroua river – about a one hour hike away – and there’s no guarantee that we will actually see it.  Until then our children can watch clips of the whio on YouTube, look at photos, and draw their own pictures of the whio that we all hope to see one day soon, alive and well in their own natural habitat.