Matariki celebrations have kicked off in full swing not only as a time to celebrate the Māori new year but to educate children and others about the importance of the occasion.

This year's event has been a true collaboration, with various groups and organisations involved in the occasion.

The weekday events are led by the Atea A Rangi Trust, with support from the National Aquarium, Para Kore, Sports Hawke's Bay, The Regional Council, Napier City Council, and Hastings District Council.

School groups are learning about Māori traditions at this time of year, celestial navigation, marine ecosystems, eating healthy kai, zero-waste living, traditional sports games, and katiakitanga (guardianship).

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Atea A Rangi Trust organisers Piripi and Michelle Smith say that for them it is all about teaching the next generation about what Matariki is and giving them the knowledge that they didn't have growing up.

"For us it's all about giving the kids an education about all of this which is something we didn't have available to us at that age," Piripi said.

"That's what Matariki means for me just being able to pass it on to kids and help them understand what the stars mean and what the importance of them mean to the environment."

The legend of Matariki explains the culmination of stars, with each star representing different forms of the natural environment and how each form will flourish depending on the brightness of the stars.

Piripi Smith talks to Flaxmere and Kimi Ora School groups about Matariki at the Atea a Rangi Star Compass. Photo / Warren Buckland
Piripi Smith talks to Flaxmere and Kimi Ora School groups about Matariki at the Atea a Rangi Star Compass. Photo / Warren Buckland

For example one star called Waipa represents sea water and if the star shines bright it will resemble an abundance of good fishing and seawater food.

The event started on Friday night with a night under the stars looking at the winter solstice and continues with regular weekday events and night events on both Tuesday and Thursday.

Tuesday was with all the general public, with families gathering to learn more about the occasion, while Thursday will be a shared hāngī with teachers as they learn more of the celebration to share with their students.

This weekend, alongside Forest and Bird Napier, the aim is to put in over 5,000 native plants and trees in a massive reconstructed wetland.

This joint riparian restoration effort aims to help reduce pollution by soaking up runoff, controlling erosion by stabilising riverbanks, creating habitat for improving native biodiversity, and helps remove pollution from the atmosphere, directly addressing climate change.

Sustainable Coastlines is supporting the project as part of the ANZ Love Your Water Tour 2019, which will see tens of thousands of native plants and trees lovingly planted throughout 10 regions of New Zealand.

"Cleaning up our waterways is an immense challenge," says Sam Judd, Co-Founder of Sustainable Coastlines and former Young New Zealander of the Year, "and this is an issue that affects everyone in the community."

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council has provided eco-sourced native plants and trees for the project to enhance the much-loved public space at Waitangi Reserve.

"It's always a great moment when locals come out and help us plant trees because the council can't do this alone – we need everyone to help," says Chair of the Regional Council, Rex Graham. "I'm excited to see the results of this effort, which will be enjoyed for generations to come."