All Black Israel Dagg is teaming up with New Zealand astronomers for a live event celebrating a highlight of the Māori New Year

Canterbury local Israel Dagg will be up early to celebrate Matariki on Tuesday, and he wants all Kiwis to join him.

Matariki signifies the end of the year in the Māori lunar calendar, marked by the appearance of the Matariki star cluster in the skies over New Zealand. Falling on July 21 this year, Tourism New Zealand has enlisted the star power of Dagg, as well as astronomy academics, to hold a special live-stream event on the traditions and legends surrounding Matariki – as well as how to spot the New Year's constellation for yourself.

"Matariki is of significance to Aotearoa because it symbolises a new year and a new start," Dagg says. "It's an opportunity for family to spend time together and remember their whakapapa, or ancestors.

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Victoria Campbell of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu will be co-hosting the Matariki broadcast. Photo / Supplied, Ben Rogers, TNZ
Victoria Campbell of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu will be co-hosting the Matariki broadcast. Photo / Supplied, Ben Rogers, TNZ

The former All Black will be joined by Dr Rangi Mātāmua and Victoria Campbell from Ngāi Tahu for a special broadcast from the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. It's an early start, but this celebration will be worth it. From 5.30am on July 21, viewers from around the world will be able to watch along on the Pure New Zealand Facebook page.

The site near Lake Takapō was designated a protected area for stargazing 2012 and has strict measures to curb light pollution.

This is particularly important for those wishing to pick out the tiny lights of Matariki, which in spite of their significance are relatively hard to spot.

There are nine stars in all, though some myths will only refer to seven. This is something that has been adapted as different astrological traditions have met and conflated over the years.

The star cluster has significance to cultures around the world. It is also known as the Pleiades or 'seven sisters' in Greek and Subaru or 'unity' Japanese. However there are few traditions in which it is more central than in New Zealand and the Māori lunar calendar. And perhaps there are few places more spectacular to see them.

Dagg will be on site with Māori astrology expert Victoria Campbell from Ngāi Tahu Tourism under the guidance of navigator Piripi Smith.

Navigator Piripi Smith. Photo / Supplied, Ben Rogers, TNZ
Navigator Piripi Smith. Photo / Supplied, Ben Rogers, TNZ

They will be discussing the stars' importance to navigation and tradition, reflecting on the past and looking forward to hopes for the year to come.

In the spirit of the Maori proverb Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua, the event invites viewers around the world to "walk into the future, with our eyes open to the past".

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Israel Dagg: The Matariki stars in seven questions

Why is Matariki of significance to New Zealand?

Matariki is of significance to Aotearoa because it symbolises a new year and a new start. It's all about spending time with my family and connecting.

What does Matariki mean to you personally?

I want to learn about my tikanga. Tikanga is a word with a wide range of meanings but touches on culture, style and customs.

'It symbolises a new start': Rugby player, Israel Dagg will be hosting the broadcast. Photo / Supplied, TNZ
'It symbolises a new start': Rugby player, Israel Dagg will be hosting the broadcast. Photo / Supplied, TNZ

Do any of the stars hold particular significance to you?

Tupu a Nuku. Tupu a Nuku is the star connected to food that grows in the ground. 'Tupu' means to grow and 'nuku' is the shortened version of Papatuanuku, meaning earth.

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Where is your favourite place to view the night sky in New Zealand?

For me it would have to be Lake Waikaremoana in the Uruwera - the most spiritual and beautiful place in New Zealand. Located in the North Island, mostly in Hawke's Bay but some in the Bay of Plenty region, Te Urewera is mostly native forest, rugged hill country that is sparsely populated. Lake Waikaremoana translates as 'sea of rippling waters'.

What do you think we can learn from the night sky and Matariki?

Matariki is an opportunity for family to spend time together and remember their whakapapa, or ancestors. There are celebrations with music, song, dance and food and traditionally new trees were planted to signal new beginnings. It is a good time to share stories

If you could give the world one message for the year ahead what would it be?

Be kind to one and another. Everyone is different and you don't know what someone is feeling or going through. A smile goes a long way.

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What is the one (or more) 'new' thing you want to do in New Zealand this year?

I would love to take my mum for a trip around New Zealand in a campervan. Such an amazing country we live in and she deserves it.