Northland's first large-scale Matariki event of 2022 will take place in Whangārei this Friday when local iwi Ngātiwai hosts an evening of live music, kai, arts and entertainment.
Whakanuia a Puanga me Matariki (Celebration of Puanga and Matariki) will combine a twilight market on the Town Basin's Canopy Bridge with a concert at the adjacent Pūtahi Park headlined by 15-piece band Creative Nātives.
It will be the first public event at Pūtahi Park, which has proved a hit with families since it opened in March.
Festivities will run from 4pm to 7pm.
Ngātiwai Trust Board chairman Aperahama Edwards said the past few years had been tough for Northlanders who'd missed out on opportunities to come together because of Covid-19.
"So we're delighted as an iwi to be able to host this festival and give something back where we can all enjoy each other's company as we move into this special time of Puanga me Matariki," he said.
Puanga is a star that, like Matariki, signals the onset of winter and the start of another year.
Almost 40 stallholders taking part in the twilight market will offer kai, arts, crafts, rongoā, information and circus acts, while Ngāti Hine Health Trust will offer flu and Covid vaccinations.
Ngātiwai Trust Board raukura (chief executive) Hūhana Lyndon said the iwi was excited to be the first group to use Pūtahi Park and surrounding facilities to celebrate Matariki.
"This is an opportunity for our whānau and community to come together to enjoy food and great entertainment at this awesome new facility that has been provided by Whangārei District Council," she said.
Mayor Sheryl Mai said she was looking forward to "a true community event" marking the Māori New Year.
Friday evening's show will be the first in Whangārei by roots reggae band Creative Nātives, which brings together Hāni Dread, Chad Chambers and top session musicians from around the motu.
The group is best known for their Kaupapa Anthems honouring the ground-breakers of kaupapa Māori music from the 1980s and 90s.
Other performers will include local covers band IllumiNgāti and Ngātiwai Kaumātua Kapa Haka Rōpu.
A pōwhiri will be held for Creative Nātives from noon at Te Kāpehu Whetū Kura on Herekino St.
The band's hearty rendition of Ngā Iwi E recently made it into New Zealand's Top 20 charts. They have performed at Te Rā o Waitangi (Waitangi Day), Waiata Reo Māori Showcase, #HikoiTo100 Festival in Awanui.
The band also played during the investiture of Bom Gillies, the last surviving member of the Māori Battalion.
Puanga, a bright star also known as Rigel located above Orion's belt, heralded the New Year for iwi such as Ngāpuhi.
Puanga is more visible in northern parts of New Zealand than the Matariki cluster, also called the Seven Sisters or Pleiades.
This year will be the first time Matariki has been commemorated with an official public holiday. It will fall on June 24 this year.