News | 5 July 2023
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The meaning of Matariki Puanga

The rising of Puanga and Matariki is a time to reflect on our loved ones who have passed, and to prepare for the New Year, as we enter the colder months. For many, Puanga is not seen as separate to Matariki, but rather as part of the wider celebration.

Graphic illustration of Matariki Puanga.

What is Puanga?

The celebration of Matariki, the Māori New Year, dates back over 700 years and is accompanied by long-established traditions. In Te Upoko o Te Ika (Wellington region), some mana whenua celebrate not just the rising of Matariki, but also Puanga. 

Puanga is a single whetū (star). It’s not part of the Matariki cluster but appears in the evening sky shortly before Matariki rises each year. Puanga rises higher in the sky than Matariki so it’s recognised by iwi and hapū that can’t see Matariki from their location. 

Traditionally, the brightness and clarity of the stars was an indicator of how abundant the harvest would be in the coming year. While the tradition of Puanga is ancient, many of us are learning about Puanga for the first time and beginning to understand its significance to Te Upoko o Te Ika. 

Why we celebrate Matariki Puanga

Matariki Puanga celebrates our unique location in Te Upoko o Te Ika. The shape of the landscape means that in some areas only Puanga can be seen, such as parts of Waiwhetū in Lower Hutt, home to Te Āti Awa ki Te Upoko o Te Ika a Māui. 

On the west coast in Porirua, within the boundaries of Ngāti Toa, Matariki is clearly visible. As we’re a region surrounded by hills and mountain ranges, there are many vantage points where both are visible.

Both Puanga and Matariki can be celebrated as a collective where we can gather with whānau over kai and karakia. We can think about the year that has passed and look forward to the year ahead. Wellington City Council is working with other Councils in the Wellington region and mana whenua who are guiding us in our celebrations for Puanga and Matariki for 2023 and for future generations.

Find out more about our Matariki Puanga events on our website