Hastings apple pickers from Vanuatu braved the cold to give a special cultural performance at the Matariki celebrations at the Napier Soundshell last Saturday night.

Event organiser Mary Martin estimated that about 2000 people attended the event, which, like the other Matariki events being hosted around the region to celebrate the Maori New Year, ended with a bang from a fireworks display.

Funded and organised by Ngati Kahungunu with support from Te Puni Kokiri, there was plenty of entertainment on offer, including performances from The Rude Boyz, singer songwriter Toni Huata, and the Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Wananga Whare Tapere o Takitimu kapa haka group.

On the night, the children had a chance to get in on the action with a dance competition, and a group of Vanuatu apple pickers dressed up and performed some traditional songs.


"It was a great way to celebrate and welcome in the Maori New Year," Ms Martin said.

The night before, thousands also attended the Matariki celebrations at Flaxmere Park on Friday.

Flaxmere Matariki event organiser Alayna Hokianga said the festivities kicked off at 5pm, also ending with a spectacular fireworks display at about 8.30pm.

"The fireworks went off - the team step it up every year and along with all the other entertainment the whole thing was amazing," she said.

As with Napier the event was centred around families and there were lots of food stalls and performances by Rezpect Dance Academy and Salt hip hop dance crews, along with bands, soloists and Brazilian drummers.

"There was a great atmosphere, even though there was a bit of rain it did not deter anyone and it helped it not get too cold."

Something for the under-5s at Flaxmere this year was the Matariki Mokopuna baby photo competition, into which entrants posted photos of their little ones on the Matariki Flaxmere Facebook page over the last couple of months.

There were six finalists, judged by the number of likes received on the facebook posts, and they all received prizes, while the winner was announced on Friday night during the event.

"It was really awesome to get the under-5s involved, and then there were bouncy castles for the over-5s and bands for the teenagers."

After some issues identified last year, more security was brought in this year as well as additional lighting, and that helped contribute to the great atmosphere.

The weekends events were two of several being planned for Hawke's Bay during June and July, with further celebrations coming up at the Wairoa Community Centre on June 23 and the Dannevirke Town Hall on July 14.