Wanaka community embraces new holiday

Rain did not deter hundreds from gathering to celebrate Matariki at Roys Park at the weekend.

The dinosaur park and Wanaka’s waterfront were abuzz with community locals and visitors alike at the celebrations on Saturday.

The event began at 2pm with youth activities designed around the nine stars of the Matariki constellation.

Fireworks over Wanaka on Saturday night.  PHOTO: SUPPLIED / JAMES MITCHELL
Fireworks over Wanaka on Saturday night. PHOTO: SUPPLIED / JAMES MITCHELL
The nine activity stations were chosen to reflect the constellation stars: Matariki (reflection, hope, our connection to the environment, and the gathering of people), Pohutakawa (loss and reflection), Tipu-a-nuku (soil and food from the ground), Tipu-a-rangi (food grown above the earth), Waiti (fresh water), Waita (salt water), Waipuna-a-rangi (rain and frosts), Ururangi (air, wind and sky) and Hiwa-i-te-rangi (hope for the future).

Representing Waiti, Wai Wanaka’s education support Jaylene Harper said they were grateful for the community support.

"We’ve got some awesome volunteers from Mt Aspiring College, helping tamariki build leaf boats to show them how water from Bullock Creek flows through Wanaka and how to keep our waterways clean and healthy for the community. It’s really awesome to see the community out here learning about freshwater and all of the things environment and Matariki," Ms Harper said.

Kahu Youth operations manager Anna Sutherland said the community were having a great time.

"We’ve got youth singing on stage in te reo being celebrated, connecting with Maori culture - celebrating the New Year. We’ve got so many community groups here helping us protect our environment. We’ve got our hangi cooking, we’ve got beautiful bonfires. We’re just having an amazing time," Ms Sutherland said.

Two bonfires filled with manuka and kanuka wood were lit by the lake’s edge at 3pm.

Locals (from left) Chilli Papai, Georgia Lindsay, Tivi Desouza and Olivia Rudhall enjoyed the...
Locals (from left) Chilli Papai, Georgia Lindsay, Tivi Desouza and Olivia Rudhall enjoyed the bonfires alongside the Wanaka lakefront during Matariki celebrations. PHOTO: ASPEN BRUCE
The hangi was pulled up, after several hours of slow cooking, at 5pm.

Preparation of the food began the day before between 1pm to 5.30pm.

Matariki is a symbolic of reflecting on the past, present and future.

Alongside the significance with the constellation, the activity stations reflected the wider meaning behind the town’s name.

Wanaka is a South Island variant of the word wananga, in reference to the ancient schools of learning held in the area.

These schools of Kai Tahu/Ngai Tahu tohuka (men of learning) were taught whakapapa (genealogies) and karakia (incantations and prayer) that had been passed down intergenerationally.

A karakia with the organisational team and family was shared at 8am around the hangi pit before the day’s preparations began.

The evening was finished off with fire poi dancers and fireworks by the lakeside.







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