National | Fireworks

Mana Whenua and Wellington Council to discuss future of Matariki fireworks

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Mana Whenua and Wellington City Council will discuss the format of future Matariki celebrations but have agreed this year's fireworks display for Matariki ki Pōneke will go ahead.

Taranaki Whānui chair Kara Puketapu-Dentice says he welcomes the council’s willingness to work together on future events.

“There are a range of views that we want to discuss with the Council and ensure we mark the Māori New Year in the right way,” Puketapu-Dentice said in a statement Friday.

In 2017 mana whenua and council agreed to move the fireworks display for Guy Fawkes in November to Matariki in June. November the 5th is the anniversary of Te Pāhuatanga o Parihaka, an important day for Te Ātiawa Taranaki Whānui.

“We recently formalised our partnership in the signing of Tākai Here, which enables mana whenua to take a leading role in Māori celebrations and language initiatives," Wellington City Council’s Tātai Heke Māori (Chief Māori Officer) Karepa Wall says.

“This includes the format for Puanga and Matariki celebrations in Wellington, and we look forward to that kōrero.”

Some councils, such as in Auckland and Christchurch, have abandoned Matariki fireworks after concerns from the government's Matariki advisory panel, chaired by Dr Rangi Matamua (Tūhoe), and other Māori leaders.

"When we were asked about fireworks, we thought, well why would you try and replace the magnificence of the night sky with artificial lights? I think the whole idea is to look into the stars," Dr Matamua told RNZ.

However, Wellington's decision to go ahead with Matariki fireworks is more nuanced, according to Wall who also spoke to RNZ.

For mana whenua in Wellington, Puanga (the star Rigel), which rises a couple of weeks before Matariki, is celebrated as the new year.

"You know Taranaki came down here into Wellington and there's also a big huge range there, the Remutaka Range. So you can't really see the horizon and where Matariki's coming up," Wall told RNZ.

"But higher in the sky is Puanga, and so an ability for them to celebrate their natural new year."

Mana Whenua have a range of Puanga activities over the coming weeks, with the Matariki ki Pōneke Ahi Kā experience around the Wellington waterfront and Te Ngākau Civic Square from 23 to 26 June.