$22k on offer for Puaka Matariki activities

Antony DeakerAbout $22,000 is available for organisations in the Dunedin area wanting to participate in this year's Maori new year celebrations.

Puaka Matariki Festival co-ordinator Antony Deaker said funding applications for the festival (June 15 to July 13) opened last month and would close on April 17.

An estimated 16,000 people attended or participated in last year's 117 events held across the city - from Mosgiel to Port Chalmers and Karitane.

Mr Deaker said in traditional times, different iwi observed the rising of Puaka or the Matariki stars to denote the beginning of the Maori new year.

''Puaka is the principal star of Ngai Tahu.

''The nature of its rising in midwinter would foretell the coming weather.''

The Maori new year was celebrated at the first new moon after the rising of Matariki or Puaka, which would be June 28 this year, he said.

Since the festival was established in 2009, it had grown to the stage where it operated on three levels, he said.

''It includes real grass-roots events where the local community will come together at their local hall, schools, kohanga and kindergartens to share activities like lantern parades, hangi and story telling,'' Mr Deaker said.

''Then many local Maori organisations put on annual events, and local institutions like the ecosanctuary, museums and the Dunedin observatory run public programmes to celebrate Puaka Matariki.

''We are also seeing the presentation of top-quality contemporary and traditional Maori performing arts.''

Mr Deaker said the festival was fortunate last year to attract Te Waka Huia, which recently won the National Te Matatini Kapa Haka championship, and the Okareka Dance Company, which filled the Regent Theatre for its contemporary dance performances.

It was hoped this year's festival would attract just as many people and participants.

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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