News | 30 September 2017

Wellington to make Matariki a major city event

Wellington will formally make Matariki, the Māori New Year, a major city celebration in 2018, Mayor Justin Lester has announced.

Plans are already under way for a programme of events for the month-long period of Matariki, which occurs around June and July every year.

Earlier this year, the council committed $500,000 in its Annual Plan budget to making Wellington New Zealand’s capital of culture, with half of that money pegged for the city’s Matariki celebrations in 2018.

Mayor Justin Lester says “the winter months in New Zealand tend to be quiet and that presents an opportunity to celebrate an event that is relevant to New Zealand. We want Wellington to lead the country in making this a major civic event.”

Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades, which rises in in mid-winter. Traditionally, it represented the start of the New Year for Māori. It is also a time for remembering the dead and celebrating new life.

Taranaki Whanui Chair Wayne Mulligan says mana whenua are delighted by the city’s ambition for Matariki and will work with the council to develop the programme, “Matariki is about fire, food and whanau and it is traditionally a time to rest, reflect and share.”

“The council is currently in the process of planning its budget for the next 10 years, and developing a plan for Matariki celebrations is a key focus of these discussions,” adds Mayor Lester.

As part of this, Wellington will be moving its annual major fireworks event to Matariki from 2018. The Wellington Sky Show, which is usually held in November, is the largest annual fireworks display put on by a city council in New Zealand.

Deputy Mayor Jill Day says that the mini fireworks show put on by the Council this year for Matariki was highly successful and very popular. “Despite the winter, families turned up to the waterfront to see the display. The feedback we received was that the earlier time was much more family friendly. As a mother of three young children, that shows me this is a much better time for this event and will help make Sky Show even better and more popular.”

Mayor Lester says that the move represents how serious the city is about making Matariki a cornerstone celebration.

“The council is committed to working with mana whenua and all of the other stakeholders that have for years being doing good work on their own Matariki events. It is time for the city to show national leadership by supporting these groups and working with them to produce a city-wide Matariki programme that all Wellingtonians can be proud of.”