Matariki kicked off in Central Hawke's Bay on Friday night with a crisp evening of fun, fireworks and fabulous performances.

More than 200 people attended the opening of Ngāti Kahungunu's annual Matariki Whānau Festival at Te Aute College, which has been held there since 2014, to celebrate the start of the Māori new year.

One of the organisers, Zack Makoare, said the clear, winter night was a perfect contrast to the previous week of rain which had drenched the region.

"It was a lovely evening."

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However, numbers were slightly down on previous years because many people had thought the rain would continue on Friday night.

"It had been really, really cold and wet."

Students from Waipawa School perform in front of the crowd. Photo/Paul Taylor
Students from Waipawa School perform in front of the crowd. Photo/Paul Taylor

The evening was still chilly but people dressed up warmly and enjoyed the winter atmosphere with performances and hot food, he said.

"The entertainment was great...people loved the fireworks.

"The highlight for me was the decorations of the whole night, the lights. It was beautiful.

"Lots of people commented on the whole thing."

Having a Matariki celebration at Te Aute College meant it was accessible to many rural families who could not attend events in Napier or Hastings, Makoare said.

Performances were made by students from a number of schools including The Terrace School, Waipawa School, Pukehou School and Te Aute College.

The festivities continued on Saturday night with a country gathering under the stars at Takapau Primary School.

People enjoyed tug-of-war, train and bus rides, performances, food and fireworks.

Other Matariki Whānau Festival events will be held at Flaxmere Park on June 15, Napier Sound Shell on June 16, Wairoa Community Centre on June 22, Frederick Wise Park in Wainuiomata on June 30, Dannevirke Showgrounds on July 27 and Henley Lake Park in Masterton on July 28.

Visit Ngāti Kahungunu's Facebook page for more information.

Pātaka, an exhibition celebrating Matariki, is also being held at the Hastings Community Art Gallery from June 5-16.

Matariki (Pleiades) is a group of seven stars that appear on the eastern horizon in the pre-dawn sky from late May to June each year.