About the Dunedin Puaka Matariki Festival

In bygone days, Tākata Māori observed the rising of the star Puaka or the Matariki cluster of stars as the beginning of the New Year: the harvest season had ended and winter days were best spent indoors. Likewise, the calendars of other cultures around the Pacific were aligned to the rising of either celestial body. In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Māori New Year starts at the first new moon following the reappearance of Puaka and Matariki, which in 2017 falls on 24 June.

Puaka is the principal star of Kāi Tahu. The nature of its reappearance in mid-winter foretells the coming season’s weather. In the northern hemisphere, Puaka is known as Rigel and is part of the Orion constellation. Around Aotearoa, different iwi have their own traditions attached to the return of Matariki. Generally, the visual appearance of the stars at their rising is a portent of weather to come and how that might affect kūmara crops. Matariki is also known in Europe as the Seven Sisters and Pleiades, and Subaru in Japan.

In Ōtepoti Dunedin we celebrate Puaka Matariki, the Māori New Year, through a diverse citywide programme of community events. We celebrate Puaka Matariki as the Wānaka Season – the time when we come together to share stories, pass on knowledge and learning, remember the dear departed, and plan for the year ahead. This is in some part represented in programmes presented by public institutions such as our Museums and Art Galleries. We celebrate Puaka Matariki as Dunedin’s Festival of Māori Art through a wide range of Toi Māori, visual art, literary works, music and dance performance events.

The 2017 Dunedin Puaka Matariki Festival ran from Saturday 17 to Friday 23 June. 

If you have any questions about the 2017 Puaka Matariki Festival, please contact the Festival Coordinator at puakamatariki@gmail.com


Puaka Matariki Festival Contestable Funding

In 2017 the Festival programme ran for seven days, and although other events which highlight the Māori New Year may also be held outside of this time, contestable grant funding provided by the Otago Community Trust and Dunedin City Council (DCC) was prioritised for events held within the 17‒23 June timeframe.  Grant funding is a contribution to any event or activity.

In 2017, $10,000 was allocated for grants to support community, arts and wānaka events for Puaka Matariki.

Applications for contestable funds and event registrations closed at 5pm on Friday 7 April.

The Funding Panel reviewed all applications and allocated funding in line with the kaupapa of the Festival. Applicants were notified of the panel’s decisions.

The Puaka Matariki Festival Steering Roopū

Who are we?

The Puaka Matariki Steering Roopū is a group of volunteers who take a kaitiaki role to support the Puaka Matariki Festival.  We are not paid and we do not represent any one group, though individually we belong to many other community groups.  Our group has an open door policy so anyone can be part of it. We meet about once a month while the festival is taking place.

What is our purpose?

Our purpose is to tautoko Puaka Matariki events by providing helpful information and support when appropriate and when invited to do so. Some of ways we can help is to advise about funding applications to the Dunedin City Council (DCC) and other organisations such as Creative New Zealand, act as a ‘sounding board’ for new event ideas, and help make links between the different events.

We also provide advice and support to the Puaka Matariki Coordinator and DCC staff involved in organising the Festival.

How did the Puaka Matariki Steering Roopū come about?

There have been many volunteers in this roopū over the past years, all in support of the original aim: to assist individual events to secure funding. We also presented a paper to the DCC annual plan (over 3 years) that strongly supported the funding of Puaka Matariki Events.

In 2008/2009 the DCC agreed to fund a coordinator and put some funds aside specifically for Puaka Matariki events. This was the start of the structure that we see today. We have had four coordinators to date, namely Reitu Cassidy (2009), Gina Huakau (2010/11), Josh Thomas (2012/13), and Antony Deaker (2014/15/16).