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Matariki was marked in earnest across Central Otago before it becomes an official public holiday next year.

New Zealand will celebrate Matariki as a public holiday from next year, beginning on June 24, 2022.

In Alexandra last week celebrations run by Uruuruwhenua Health at Dunstan High School’s whare whakaruruhau on Thursday included a bread making competition for rewena traditional Maori sourdough potato bread.

Tokanui woman Serena Lyders, of Whanau Consultancy Services, said the bread was made with a potato (or sometimes kumara) starter or “bug”, that fermented and caused the bread to rise and gives it its unique flavour.

The bug was “high-maintenance” and needed to be fed every two days for about a week, she said.

Sure to rise . . . Tokonui-based Serena Lyders of Whanau Consultancy Services with examples of rewena — traditional Maori sourdough potato bread as part of Matatriki celebrations in Alexandra. PHOTO: JARED MORGAN

Rounding off activities was kite making Matariki tradition Uruuruwhenua Health manager Mel Kuiti said.

On Friday, schools from throughout Central Otago and Upper Clutha took part in the Winterstellar Schools Day at the Alexandra Memorial Hall and Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery in Alexandra.

The event was organised by Central Otago REAP and the Otago Museum Science Outreach team.

After pupils adventures in the Otago Museum Star Dome and science experiments, they walked over to the museum to get a sneak peek at the Winterstellar Exhibition before the opening that evening.

The calendar date for the Matariki public holiday will shift each year, to align with the maramataka (Maori lunar calendar) and will always be on a Friday.

Boom . . . A hydrogen balloon exploding creating a loud bang as Hawea Flat School pupil Lola Bates (10) covers her ears in the background. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON