When Rereata Makiha was growing up there were no cellphones, iPads or computers.

In fact, there was no power.

So without the internet or any technology how did people understand the world they lived in?

"Our grandparents," Makiha says.

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He was speaking to a group of people gathered at Wairoa Marae on Saturday about the maramataka, the Maori lunar calendar, and how it could be used to help the local community.

Makiha said the maramataka had been used in New Zealand for more than 2000 years and helped people understand the behaviour of plants, fish and animals.

By mapping the repetitive cycle of the moon, optimum times for planting, harvesting, fishing and a person's general wellbeing could be understood better, Makiha said.

He said our ancestors tried to understand things they "couldn't see" such as the winds, tides, rain and clouds by putting them into categories.

Each phase of the moon was given a name and over time, was observed and assessed by its relationship to activities in the natural world.

There were "high energy" days throughout the lunar month when planting certain crops was successful and there were cues from nature such as when a specific flower bloomed.

"Some flowers tell us there will be no more frost and it's time to plant our kai," he said.

"Low energy" days, when the moon was not full, indicated when it was best to rest your body and mind and to not plant or fish.

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"These low energy days are good for reflecting, thinking or planning," he said.

Makiha, who was a Maori adviser to the Auckland Council, said the council now planted in line with the lunar calendar, which had benefited the growth of native trees and plants around the city.

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Dozens of local Maori gathered at Wairoa Marae to learn ways to improve the health of people in the community.

A two-day programme run by Ngati Ranginui, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Toi Tangata gave locals a chance to gain ideas and tools of how to make healthier choices.

Aroha Tito, a spokeswoman for Ngati Ranginui, said day one was focused on speakers providing information on the Maori lunar calendar and day two would see participants take on a more practical programme including cooking demonstrations.

Participants looked at the way food was prepared on their own marae to see how healthier choices could be made.

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Tito said there was demand from local Maori wanting to gain more information about living healthier lives.

"A lot of people know they need to eat well and exercise but it's about giving them the tools to do that."

Tito said the programme incorporated Maori concepts and traditions so participants felt more comfortable.

"We don't want to change the way people do things on the marae, but show them some healthier options."