Matariki - English version

Matariki is the Māori name for the seven-star constellation that rises in the north-east before dawn in June.

Fireworks over Wellington harbour.

In Western astronomy it is known as the Pleiades, and it forms the shoulder of Taurus the Bull.

Matariki marks the start of a new phase of life. It is a time of festivity for Māori, the tangata whenua, or first people of New Zealand.

Matariki is an important time in the Māori calendar and is associated with the start of the cold season when the pātaka kai (food storehouses) are full and the land is at its most unproductive.

What happens at Matariki

Matariki is a celebration of people, language, spirituality and history. It is the time when people gather to share kai (food), rituals, entertainment, hospitality and knowledge.

Every year, the month of June is filled with events celebrating Matariki involving:

  • theatre, comedy, music and dance
  • arts and crafts, including carving and weaving
  • speakers and storytelling at local community centres and star observatories, passing on knowledge and history
  • traditional ceremonies
  • family activities
  • activities on the land, including bush walks and planting of native trees.

Matariki events 2017

Matariki fireworks

When: Saturday 24 June 2017, 6:30pm
Where: Te Papa Promenade, Wellington Waterfront

Bring your friends and family down to the waterfront to see Wellington light up the night sky with a stunning fireworks display over the harbour to celebrate the start of the Māori New Year.

If weather results in cancelling the event on Saturday 24 June, it will go ahead on Sunday 25 June.

Matariki festival 2017

When: 16 to 25 June 2017
Where: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa

Te Papa marks Matariki from 16 to 25 June, with family-friendly events celebrating the Māori New Year. The focus is on fun, learning, and food as the community comes together to share this time of renewal.

Highlights in 2017 include a special opening night event on the waterfront, cooking demonstrations, dance and storytelling performances, and the iconic Kaumatua Kapa Haka competition.

Find out more at

Matariki exhibition

When: Until Sat 24 June 2017
Where: Toi Pōneke gallery

Pūkana whakarunga! Gaze wildly to the realm above!
Pūkana whakararo! Gaze wildly to the realm below!

Contemporary artworks by leading and emerging Maori artists are paired with virtual taonga from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa, accessed via visitors’ mobile devices.

Artists include Reweti Arapere, Lonnie Hutchinson, Kauri Hawkins, Stevei Houkamau, Robyn Kahukiwa, James Lainchbury, Reuben Paterson, and Ngatai Taepa.

Find out more at

WAITUHI public art project

Local artist and jeweller Keri-Mei Zagrobelna’s flag designs have been selected for display at Frank Kitts Parks and Toi Pōneke Arts Centre, Abel Smith Street. The flags will be in place for two months from Thursday 1 June.

This annual public art project takes the festivities of Matariki to a wider audience, beyond the traditional arts spaces of the galleries, museums and theatres.


When: Friday 30 June, 5:33pm
Where: Civic Square

ReCut is a series of free, dynamic, outdoor events that celebrate Wellington’s identity and pride as New Zealand’s arts and culture capital.

The next ReCut event will take place in Civic Square on Friday 30 June, to coincide with the DHL New Zealand Lions Series and Matariki celebrations. Locals and visitors will get a taster of some of the finest acts in the capital, and from around the world, showcasing Wellington’s vibrant arts and culture with a range of jaw-dropping performances.

Keep an eye out for more information and get involved in the action using #WellyReCut .

If weather results in cancelling the event on Friday 30 June, it will go ahead on Saturday 1 July.

More information

For more information on Wellington’s Matariki celebrations visit

How to spot Matariki

Keep an eye out in late May or early June for Matariki to rise on the northeast horizon, around the same spot as the rising sun.

The best time to spot Matariki is around half an hour before dawn.

Matariki is viewed as a signal of what kind of year lies ahead. If the stars are clear and bright, it is a sign that the year ahead will be warm and bountiful. If they are hazy and shimmering, a cold, unproductive year is expected.

Matariki and Māori New Year

Matariki marks the start of the Māori New Year. Most iwi (Māori tribes) celebrate Matariki, although depending on the tradition of the iwi, the start of the New Year is marked variously by:

  • the first pre-dawn sighting of Matariki
  • the rising of the next new moon following the sighting of Matariki
  • the rising of the next full moon following the sighting of Matariki.

Māori New Year is a time to:

  • reflect on, acknowledge and celebrate the year gone by
  • show respect for the land and learn about the land we live on
  • remember the whakapapa (ancestry) who have passed on to the next world, and the legacy they have left behind
  • turn to the future - welcome the new generation to the world and make plans for the year ahead.

Matariki and Māori legend

Traditionally, Matariki has two meanings: mata-riki (tiny eyes) or mata-ariki (eyes of God).

Māori legend tells of a time when Ranginui (the sky father) and PapatÅ«ānuku, (the earth mother) were forcibly separated by their children.

The god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became so angry he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens, where they have remained ever since.

History of Matariki

Matariki celebrations were popular before the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand. The celebrations gradually became less frequent, with one of the last traditional festivals recorded in the 1940s. Matariki celebrations were revived at the beginning of the 21st century in New Zealand.

Matariki across the world

Matariki's seven stars can be viewed from anywhere in the world and the constellation is globally recognised as a key navigational aid for sailors. It features in many cultures and acts as an important signal for seasonal celebrations around the world.

Europe: Pleiades, the Greek name for the cluster, is described as seven sisters, the daughters of Atlas and Pleone. In Greece, several major temples face straight towards Matariki, as does Stonehenge in England.

Māori and Pacific cultures: In Māori and Pacific stories, Matariki is described as a mother surrounded by her six daughters.

Japan: In Japan, Matariki is known as Subaru.

Other: The Matariki cluster of stars has also been celebrated by Africans, American Indians, Australian aborigines, Chinese and Vikings.

Unity, harvesting and planting, paying tributes to ancestors and looking ahead to the future are all themes of these celebrations.