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Preparations have begun for this year’s Matariki celebration in Wanaka, which will include a hangi expected to feed more than 700 people.

The celebration, presented by the Kahu Youth Trust with guidance from mana whenua, will take place at the Dinosaur Park and Roys Bay Reserve on Saturday.

Kahu Youth operations manager Anna Booth said the day was about highlighting community.

“It’s a really beautiful celebration to come together to celebrate Maori culture, have a hangi, listen to some great kapa haka and just celebrate the Maori New Year together with friends, whanau and community.”

Kahu Youth social worker Samantha Strong said the day has been structured intentionally.

“We’re celebrating the nine stars by pairing with some local community groups including WAI Wanaka, Te Kakano, Grow Wanaka as well as WAO.

“They will be showcasing different activities that relate to the different stars in the Matariki constellation.”

The first activity begins with a star map focused on Matariki, the central star in the cluster, representing people and wellbeing.

The nine activity stations have been chosen to reflect the constellation stars: Matariki, 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).

Local community groups and businesses connected to the meanings behind the stars will run the stations.

Matariki volunteer Paul Tamati, who will be preparing the hangi to reflect Tipu-a-nuku, said this year’s celebration would be one of the best to date.

“I love when we come to this time of the year when we come to celebrate Matariki,” he said.

“I love to be a part of preparing the kai, doing the big hangi and part of that hangi is to give back to the people and that’s where Maori are very good at sharing the kai with other people.

“It’s been years and years in the making and this year’s going to be one of the tops.”

Volunteer Tom Winder embodies the message of Matariki of reflecting on the past, present and future.

He attended Kahu Youth programmes from the age of 11 and returns annually to support the trust in running the Matariki celebrations.

“Now as an adult, for the past six or seven years I’ve been coming back volunteering, getting into my roles of dirt, fire, transport and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” he said.

Activities will start at 2pm and the evening will end with fireworks.