The Matariki ki Waikato festival is welcoming the Māori New Year with more than 60 events planned for the entire Waikato region.
The reappearing of the Matariki star cluster, also known as Pleiades in the skies above New Zealand in June and July each year signals the start of the Māori New Year.
Now in its 12th year, Matariki ki Waikato is New Zealand's longest running Matariki festival and set to be the biggest one ever this year. Festival director Bea Mossop says the variety of events this year will provide memorable experiences for locals of all ages, as well as visitors to the region.
"Matariki is about the stars but it is also about community, health and wellbeing. We have live shows, art exhibitions and community events taking place across the entire region, from Waitomo, Matamata, Raglan and Morrinsville to Ngāruawāhia, Te Aroha and Te Awamutu."
Highlights will include the Matariki ki Te Whare Taonga o Waikato cultural event at Waikato Museum on June 19. In Waitomo, a series of unique events are planned in and around the underground world of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
Visitors can enjoy a magical Matariki Twilight tour through the caves on July 3 or attend workshops on Māori medicine and nature. Māori artworks will be exhibited at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre and a special one-night only concert, dining and cave tour evening will be held on July 10, complete with boil-up, fried bread and kawakawa tea.
The Manu Tukutuku whānau kite day at Hamilton Gardens is especially designed for families. Organised by the Friends of Hamilton Gardens, this free event encourages families to learn about and make manu tukutuku kites, before flying them together with others.
Music lovers won't want to miss Whiti at Hamilton's Meteor Theatre on July 2. The show will feature performances from New Zealand artists and DJs, along with the Nine Star Stage Competition giving young people the chance to share their own music, dance, poetry or performance about what Matariki means to them.
Other community events include poi making workshops, kapa haka performances and astrology talks about the Matariki star cluster, which announces the start of the Māori New Year when it comes into view on the eastern horizon.
Mossop says: "Community events are the heart of the festival and we have also made an effort to include social change events like Rob Mokaraka's Shot Bro show at Meteor Theatre, which tackles issues of depression and mental health."
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson says: "Matariki is a time to celebrate new beginnings and plan for the year ahead. It's a time to spend with whānau and friends, to reconnect, enjoy kai, share stories and reflect on the year gone by."
For more information including a list of all events visit matarikiwaikato.nz.