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Celebrating Matariki


By Troy Brockbank (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi)
Water New Zealand Board Member & Kaitohutohu Matua Taiao (WSP)

Matariki atua ka eke mai i te rangi e roa,

E whāngainga iho ki te mata o te tau e roa e.

Divine Matariki come forth from the far-off heaven,

Bestow the first fruits of the year upon us.

Matariki is an important event for Aotearoa New Zealand that occurs every year and signals the start of the Māori new year. Matariki is a time to celebrate, reflect, and acknowledge the past, present and future.

Matariki (Pleaides) is a cluster of stars that are visible in the night sky at a specific time of the year. It disappears from our view in Haratua (April/May) and reappears on the dawn horizon in Pipiri (June/July). This year Matariki is anticipated to rise between the 13-16th July 2020.

Acknowledging and celebrating Matariki has in recent years become an increasingly important part of our national conversation and identity. It has significantly aided in the naturalisation of Te Ao Māori (Māori worldviews) in communities and ignited all cultures to celebrate their relationship with the whenua (land). Now we are talking about the possibility of Matariki becoming a national holiday.

Interestingly there are three stars (Waipuna-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā) within the Matariki star cluster that have a deep connection with water.

  • Waipuna-ā-rangi is associated with precipitation and is often referred to as ‘the spring in the sky’. Rain from Waipuna-ā-rangi helps nourish the whenua (land) and waterbodies and is returned through evaporation. Using the water cycle, Waipuna-ā-rangi reminds us that manaaki (generosity) that is given to others, will eventually be returned.
  • Waitī is associated with fresh waterbodies and all the food sources, and creatures within. Rainfall from Waipuna-a-rangi nourishes the freshwater bodies watched by Waitī, before they flow out to the saltwater bodies of Waitā. This flow of freshwater from the upper catchment to the sea reminds us of our connection to water, and to each other.
  • Waitā is associated with oceans and salt waterbodies and all the food sources, and creatures within. It receives the flow of water from the freshwater bodies on the land. It reminds us that our actions upstream can have adverse effects downstream.

In addition, there are other stars in the Matariki cluster that also associated with elements of Te Hurihanga wai (the water cycle);

  • Ururangi is associated with wind and aids in the returning of water to Waipuna-ā-rangi through evaporation - as the waters of Papatūānuku are heated by Tamanuiterā (The sun).
  • Tupu ā nuku and Tupu ā rangi are associated with the growing of kai within and and ontop of the whenua (land). They also incorporate infiltration of water into the whenua to be uptaken by rakau(trees) to provide water for growing kai, but also to help the rakau/vegetation cool down through transpiration. They also provide us - ngā tāngata (the people) - with a source of water through kai.

Matariki is also a time to celebrate new life, remember those who’ve passed and to plan for the future.So to all our members and those in the wider water sector, we hope you are enjoying this time to welcome new arrivals and reflect on the life and contribution of those who have passed this year.

Matariki hunga, Matariki ahunga nui.

Matariki has many admirers, Matariki brings us together