Breadcrumb navigation

Taniwha to guard Harbour Bridge this Matariki

Published: 29 June 2018

Dazzling with Matariki stars, majestic taniwha, blazing pōhutukawa, giant waka and mighty kauri, an exciting new Vector Lights on Auckland Harbour Bridge light show joins the opening weekend for Matariki Festival 2018.

The light show will run every hour from 6pm to midnight on Sunday 1 July, then every Friday and Saturday through to 21 July, in celebration of Matariki and festival iwi manaaki (host iwi), Te Kawerau a Maki. This captivating sensory experience in light and music will transport you to a world of Māori history and legends.

The stories behind the show

Ngā whetū o Matariki – Reflection, celebration and preparation.

The light show and accompanying soundtrack celebrates the story of Te Kawerau a Maki’s arrival in Tāmaki Makaurau and their role as kaitiaki over the Waitākere Ranges and kauri.

The Matariki (Pleiades) star cluster signals the beginning of the Māori New Year. It is a time to gather with family and friends to reflect on the past, celebrate the present and plan for the future. The 8th shining star on the bridge represents Puanga, a significant star to Te Kawerau a Maki, which rises before the Matariki constellation.

The taniwha Paneiraira swoops and dives across the Harbour Bridge as the kaitiaki (guardian) for the waka that the original descendants of Te Kawerau a Maki travelled on from Hawaikii to Aotearoa. Paneiraira beats the waves down to ensure safe passage for Tainui waka. 

Tainui Waka was surrounded by the bright red bloom of pōhutukawa as they first pulled ashore in Tāmaki Makaurau, which looked like Te Kura a Tainihinihi, the red feathers from Hawaikii. As the northernmost tribe of the Tainui waka, Te Kawerau a Maki are referred to as Te Kei o Te Waka, the stern of the canoe and Te Kuaha o te Kaipara, the door of the Kaipara.

Te Kawerau a Maki have a wide area of customary interest, including the former Waitākere city and ranges area, and their people travelled widely and built Pā in various sites around Auckland. Kowhatu ki te Uru was a skilled builder of pā who is represented in the pou Kowhatukiteuru that features as the hero image for Matariki Festival 2018.

The Waitākere Ranges and the huge forest that once covered much of Hikurangi (West Auckland) are known by the traditional name Te Wao nui a Tiriwa — the great forest of Tiriwa. The many peaks extending down the Waitākere Ranges from Muriwai to the Manukau Harbour entrance became known as Ngā Rau Pou a Maki, or the many posts of Maki.

Kauri trees are the central component of indigenous forest ecosystems and as the Rangatira (chief) of the forest, they have been connected with Māori for centuries.

Te Kawerau a Maki have placed a rāhui on the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area to protect the threat that kauri dieback poses to extinction of the mighty kauri. The ultimate goal of the rāhui is that, in time, the kauri will regenerate and the spread of the disease will reduce. If the kauri thrive so will the rest of the forest, including plants and birds.

The accompanying audio for this light show includes karakia, ancient chants, wind and waves crashing, carving, bird songs and a powerful haka provided by Te Kawerau a Maki. The audio was performed by Te Warena Taua and Riki Bennett using voice and traditional tāonga puoro.

Where to see and listen to the show

The show is 10 minutes in duration and will repeat on the hour from 6pm to midnight on Sunday 1 July, then every Friday and Saturday through to 21 July. 

Aucklanders can experience the show from a view point around the Waitematā Harbour and take their mobile device and speaker with them to listen to a dedicated audio stream synced to the light show at vector.co.nz/lights. There will also be a live-stream online at the website.

Share your experience on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with #vectorlights and #matarikifestival.

About Vector Lights on Auckland Harbour Bridge

The Vector Lights on Auckland Harbour Bridge light show for Matariki was designed by Mandy Lights in collaboration with Te Kawerau a Maki as part of a smart energy partnership between Vector and Auckland Council in collaboration with the NZ Transport Agency, the guiding light toward a smart energy future.

Other Auckland landmarks lighting up this Matariki

Vector Lights on Auckland Harbour Bridge joins prominent landmarks across Auckland, including the Sky Tower, Auckland Museum and Manukau Civic Building,  that will light up in Matariki colours throughout Matariki Festival as Light Up Tāmaki. Their orange glow represents the breaking dawn, which is when you can see Matariki at this time of the year.

Matariki Festival 2018 runs from 30 June to 22 July, see matarikifestival.org.nz for the full programme of events.