The organisers of Wanaka’s annual Matariki celebrations are anticipating larger than normal crowds at their event on Friday.
Kahu Youth Trust operations director Anna Sutherland said while the all-ages event was popular enough in its own right, the timing of Matariki this year meant an increase in the number attending was likely.
‘‘We usually have 2000-plus people come through our Matariki event. This year we expect an increase, as it is on the last Friday of the school holidays.’’
Te Kahui o Matariki is a cluster of stars that rises in mid-winter, marking the start of the Maori New Year.
The cluster is best viewed in June and July by looking east in the early morning sky.
This year marks the second time the occasion has been recognised with a public holiday in New Zealand.
The event in Wanaka will feature kapa haka performances from local schools and community groups, the retelling of local Maori history and legends by storyteller and kaumatua Darren Rewi, and fire dancers after sunset.
A hangi will be served after 5pm, and the proceeds will go to support Kahu Youth Trust’s work with youth in the Upper Clutha area.
The trust has also collaborated with local environmental groups to create activities aimed at educating the event’s younger attendees on the meaning of each of the nine stars that make up the Te Kahui o Matariki cluster.
In line with other Matariki events around the country, Kahu Youth has made the decision not to include a fireworks display as part of the festivities this year.
In a statement, the trust said the decision was based on both the kaupapa (principles) of Matariki prepared by the Matariki Advisory Committee as well as community feedback.
‘‘We know that the Wanaka Matariki fireworks have been a highlight for many people for many years and we are grateful for the people who went above and beyond to make these fireworks spectaculars possible.
‘‘Matariki is a reflective time.
‘‘The Pohutukawa star, the eldest child of the Matariki, encourages us to reflect on our past and remember and acknowledge loved ones who have passed, by looking to the stars.
‘‘Light from fireworks can detract from this reflection and remembrance.’’
Ms Sutherland said Kahu Youth was ‘‘excited’’ to share what it had planned with the community on Friday.
‘‘It is a true community event and we couldn’t do it without the incredible support of our volunteers, local youth and generous community.’’
Wanaka’s 2023 Matariki celebrations take place tomorrow, from 2pm to 6pm at the Dinosaur Park and Roys Bay Reserve.