National | Matariki

Matariki events attracting record crowds as knowledge grows

Aucklanders mark the start of Matariki Festival on 15 June, 2024. Photo / Auckland Council / Bryan Lowe

This article was first published by RNZ.

Record numbers have attended Matariki events since it became a national holiday, according to festival organisers.

Auckland Council Matariki Festival lead Melz Huata-Lucas (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Kāi Tahu, Ngāi Tahu) said the festival had grown as public awareness had increased.

Matariki became an official public holiday in 2021, fulfilling a pre-election promise made by the-then Labour government.

Huata-Lucas estimated more than 200,000 people had attended Matariki events in the city centre alone each year since.

“It is continuing to grow and definitely being noticed by staff on the ground.”

Photo / Auckland Council / Bryan Lowe

Bay of Plenty Matariki Festival organiser Jackie Sanders said she was expecting the largest turnout yet for the event and had had to add more dates for sold-out events.

She said more than 10,000 people attended the festival’s events throughout the region in 2023.

On Saturday, a pre-dawn ceremony on Pukekohekohe Hill marked the start of Auckland’s Matariki Festival.

Ngāti Tamaoho, which is the festival’s iwi partner for the next three years, led a karakia and pōwhiri at Ngā Hau e Whā Marae.

Photo / Auckland Council / Bryan Lowe

Huata-Lucas said more people were starting to get excited about Matariki and understand what it was about.

“Māori have always celebrated Matariki as the start to the new year. It is a time to reflect on the year that has gone by and the people who have passed.”

She said people were also learning about Matariki from their children.

“In schools, they are learning about what the stars represent and they can bring that home to their families.”

Aucklanders mark the start of Matariki Festival on 15 June, 2024. Photo / Auckland Council /Bryan Lowe.

Huata-Lucas said organisers had been able to expand the Auckland festival to more than 90 Matariki events taking place across the city, many of which are free.

She encouraged people to check what events were happening in their area and establish traditions with their families.

This year, the Auckland Matariki Festival runs from 15-30 June, while the Matariki public holiday falls on 28 June.

By Jessica Hopkins of RNZ.