This was the beautiful dawn scene which started one of the most significant celebrations on the Maori calendar today.

At 6.30am, host iwi Ngati Manuhiri and Auckland Council marked the opening of Matariki, the indigenous new year at Tawharanui Regional Park near Matakana.

After the dawn karakia, public are invited to join local iwi today as they begin the season's celebration of a new harvest and renewal - including tree planting by VIP guests, kapa haka performances, kite making, sculpture and the chance to get face-to-face with tuatara from Auckland Zoo.

The day also includes the opportunity to watch rare giant kokopu, released as part of an Auckland Council Parks project that will see the largest reintroduction of whitebait to date in New Zealand into the wild at Tawharanui Regional Park after a 30-year hiatus.


Matariki is the opportunity for Ngati Manuhiri to share stories and culture with the wider community.

"It's a celebration of our spirituality and the history of our people", Mook Hohneck of Ngati Manuhiri said.

"Matariki is the star that signifies reflection, hope, our connection to the environment and the gathering of people. It's a good time to reflect on our place in the world, to reawaken old skills, try out new ones and set new goals."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff urged all New Zealanders to consider the importance of the occasion.

"Matariki is rich in tradition, it marks the passage of time. It's still a time to listen, to learn, to share, to foster unity and recognise the importance of family, the unique place in which we live and it's time to give respect to the land we live on," he said.

Go to the Matariki Festival website or call 09 301 0101 for more information and the schedule of today's activities.