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Hands up who else thinks we should just start a New Year now?   

Yep, me too. Thankfully, we can! 

Look to the Eastern sky just before dawn in the next two weeks and if it’s not too cloudy, you’ll see Matariki or Puanga (depending on where you are in the country). According to Māori, Matariki (or Puanga for some Iwi) is about to begin.  The appearance of Matariki or Puanga in the night sky signifies the start of the Māori New Year.  Traditionally, a time to remember those whom have passed on and to celebrate new life and beginnings, Matariki and Puanga are an important and significant event to celebrate for many. For Māori, Matariki and Puanga signify the end of the harvest season which means food stocks are plentiful for winter.  This allowed traditional Māori to not only assure their (and their loved one’s survival) but it also meant a time of slowing down, reflecting and re-energising for the year ahead. 

So yes, Matariki and Puanga both celebrate the Māori New Year.  The reason for the difference in names?  In some areas, particularly Taranaki, Matariki (or Pleiades) is very hard to see at this time of the year because it is very low in the Eastern sky.  Puanga (or Rigel) however, is visible so these areas celebrate Puanga instead. 

Matariki and Puanga are also a time of renewal and innovation.  As a nation we have certainly experienced unprecedented times in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.  This global pandemic has impacted us on so many levels, disrupting food supply chains and reducing our opportunities to come together as communities.  Matariki and Puanga provide an opportunity to begin to re-connect ourselves with the land and with our communities and there are so many ways we can do this.  Why not consider growing a garden or volunteering in a community garden?  Why not consider volunteering for a local conservation initiative or shopping locally?  

What else can you do? 

Get involved with your local Matariki/Puanga celebrations!  Check out your local Council website or just google Matariki (or Puanga) and your area to find out what events may be on.  Why not host your own event? Even better, challenge someone to a manu tukutuku (kite building) competition.  Perhaps you want to do something with your whanau and friends?  A quick google search can offer lots of links to activities for all ages.  There are so many ways we can participate, the only limit is our imaginations! Let’s grab this opportunity with both hands and reflect, rebuild, renew and refocus our energy. 

The global pandemic has also seen changes in the way many people work, forcing us to embrace change and innovation.  Many people’s everyday lives have changed fundamentally. So why not embrace it?  Matariki and Puanga not only give us the opportunity to reconnect but also to think outside the box and be brave enough to innovate.  New Zealand is well known internationally for our ‘Number 8 wire’ mentality, let’s see how innovative we can be!  What exciting dreams have you got brewing on the horizon?  Carpe Diem!  

Want more information about Matariki/Puanga?   

For more information about Matariki, visit the Te Papa website or this handy pdf document 

How to find Matariki 

Activity and learning resources 

For more information about manu tukutuku 


This article was written by Bridget Taylor – Kaiwhakahaere o nga Tikanga