It was pre-dawn on a crisp, clear midwinter’s morning on Saturday 22 June.
Hundreds of Aucklanders gathered in darkness at the foot of Pukekaaroa Hill in Auckland Domain before Kiingi Tuheitia, accompanied by the Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff and dignitaries from iwi manaaki (host iwi) Waikato-Tainui, led a gentle walk to the hilltop.
It was a poignant occasion as Matariki Dawn Karakia opened 2019’s Matariki Festival. Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland Council, in partnership with Waikato-Tainui are bringing the festival to the Auckland region from 22 June until 14 July this year.
As Pukekaaroa Hill in Auckland Domain is a place of special significance in the history of Taamaki Makaurau for Waikato-Tainui, the site was chosen as the venue for Matariki Dawn Karakia this year.
Between Grandstand Road South and the Auckland War Memorial Museum —Tāmaki Paenga Hira is a stand of trees on a hill where paramount chief of Waikato-Tainui and first Maaori King, Pootatau Te Wherowhero, once resided.
In that stand of trees is a tootara, planted in 1940 by Te Puea Herangi (great granddaughter to Te Wherowhero), commemorating the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Carvings from Kiingitanga master carver, Piri Poutapu, surround the base of the tree.
Pukekaaroa Hill is part of Pukekawa, the name given to Auckland Domain, stretching as far as Stanley Street. Pukekawa was identified early on by Maaori as one of the best sites in the isthmus area, with the north-facing side of the volcanic cone well-suited for growing kuumara and the hill as a paa site.
While in residence, Te Wherowhero became the protector of Te Rauparahaa and of Taamaki. It was here that the saying, "Kia tuupato ki te takahi i te remu o taku kahu" originated, warning hostile tribes not to tread upon the figurative hem of Te Wherowhero’s cloak.
Each year Matariki Dawn Karakia commemorates those who have passed, acknowledges those who remain, assists in planning for the approaching seasons and welcomes the new year with karanga, karakia, waiata and kotahitanga (unity).
Following the blessing on Saturday, led by Waikato -Tainui, there was a light breakfast hosted by Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland Council, for everyone who came to enjoy this special moment of celebration and reflection on a chilly Auckland morning.
Matariki Festival 2019 is generously supported by Vector Lights (principal partner), Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, AMI and SKYCITY (supporting partners) and NZME (media partner).
Note: you’ll see different spellings in this story as Waikato-Tainui use double-vowels in their written convention rather than macrons.
Upcoming Matariki events
Manu Aute Kite Day, 29 June, 10am–4pm, Takaparawhau at Ōrākei; 11am–4pm, Pukewīwī in Puketāpapa (Mt Roskill); 12pm–4pm, Manu Tukutuku in Manurewa: See skies filled with kites at three locations across Auckland.
Te Taumata Kapa Haka, 6 July, 10am–4pm at ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre: Witness exhilarating live performances. This event is presented by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and is also part of Elemental AKL.
Matariki on the Move: Kōrero, 10 July, 7pm–10pm at SKYCITY Theatre, Auckland CBD: Hear stories of the Matariki star cluster, learn the art of navigation and discover the importance of the Māori lunar calendar.
Te Korakora on Federal, 12 July, 5pm–10pm in Federal Street, Auckland CBD: Dance the night away under the Matariki stars while enjoying a stellar line-up of musical talent and entertainment. This event is presented by SKYCITY and is also part of Elemental AKL.
Vector Lights for Matariki Festival, 27–30 June, 5–7 and 12–14 July at 6pm – midnight (the show runs for 8 minutes and plays every half hour): Enjoy a stunning light show presenting the stories of Tāmaki Makaurau from the perspective of Waikato-Tainui in light and music on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. This event is part of a smart energy partnership between Vector and Auckland Council and is also part of Elemental AKL.