Matariki celebrations around Queenstown Lakes

by Lauren Pattemore - Jul 13, 2023

To mark the occasion of Matariki and the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar, there are events organised all over the district.

Over in Arrowtown, kicking off at 4pm on Friday there will be Matariki celebrations on Buckingham Green, with an opening ceremony, Kapa Haka performances and songs from waiata group, Ngā Manu Hou. This space will then be used for a Fire Show at 6.30pm, put on by FLAME Entertainment.

Astrophysicist Professor Brian Boyle will be outside the Lakes District Museum sharing his knowledge of the stars and Otago night skies from 6pm, and the museum will be open until 7.30pm with a Winterstellar exhibition on inside.

There'll be giant light projections along Buckingham Street and nearby laneways in a Matariki-theme until 10pm, as well as fire pits, food stalls and more performances. 

Dorothy Browns cinema is showing Whetū Mārama – Bright Star, a 2022 documentary film about Sir Hekenukumai Busby and traditional Māori voyaging, using the stars as navigation, at 8pm tonight (Thursday).

This is the second year of Arrowtown’s Matariki celebration, with more than 1000 people attending the 2022 event.

Meanwhile Mana Tāhuna is hosting a Matariki evening with kapa haka and a performance from the Modern Māori Quartet, alongside a three-course meal at the Queenstown Memorial Hall tonight (Thursday) with festivities beginning at 6pm.

Early on Friday morning, Coronet Peak opens at 6.15am to host a Matariki constellation viewing at the top of the Greengate chair. There's a karakia, a discussion about the importance of Matariki and free croissants on the agenda. Bookings for the event close at 8pm tonight (Thursday).

Over in Wānaka, Dinosaur Park will become a celebration hub on Friday from 2pm until 7.30pm, with a community stage hosting performances from Kahu Youth Trust, Hāwea kindergartens and primary schools, Wanaka Ukuleles and more.

The community stage at Wānaka's Matariki event (Source: Kahu Youth Trust Facebook)

Kahu Youth Trust has also organised a hangi, fit for feeding more than 700 people, tickets for which will be sold from 3pm on Friday at the park, with the hangi pulled at 4.30pm. Tickets are $5. 

At 3pm and 3.45pm mātua Darren Rewi is hosting Matariki storytelling on the community stage.

Wao Wānaka are also encouraging those to come down a little earlier for a Matariki beach-clean up, meeting at 10.30am at Dinosaur Park to tidy up the Lakeside for ‘Plastic Free July’.

Continuing the celebrations beyond the weekend, adults can also hear Mātariki story-telling throughout July, with the council library’s hosting Mr Rewi again. He’ll be at Wānaka Library on July 20 at 5pm, and Queenstown Library on July 27 at 5.30pm. Attendees are encouraged to book a spot and bring a mug for a hot drink.

On a national level, there’s also a traditional hautapu ceremony at Mt Ngongotahā, Rotorua on Friday, which will be broadcasted onto Whakaata Māori, TVNZ and

Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, Willow-Jean Prime will be in attendance at hautapu ceremony and says “it’s fantastic to see” the number and scale of Matariki events increasing in 2023.

“In 2022, just over half (51 percent) of the population did something specific to celebrate Matariki and current indications are that this year the number should be higher.”

$18 million will be invested in the next four years to expand public awareness and understanding of Matariki, announced in the 2023 budget, Minister Prime says.

“And wherever New Zealanders are on the day, it doesn’t have to be a big-scale celebration - the key elements of remembrance, celebrating the present and looking to the future can be marked by anyone wherever they are.”

She invites New Zealanders to attend an event, watch the broadcast or "simply look up at the stars" on Friday in celebration of Matariki.

Main image (Source: Facebook): Matariki Arrowtown Lights from Think Loud Creative.

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