There was waiata, tree planting and a warm hearty breakfast for Whanganui East School as it celebrated Puanga and Matariki.

About 60 adults and children braved the cold winter morning for the ceremony led by Matua John Maihi early on Thursday morning.

Early learning centre Te Puna Ako Ki Tōtara Puku, which sits on the same grounds as Whanganui East School, also took part in the event.

Teacher May Bennett said it was an incredible morning for the school.

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"It's an ongoing part of our journey because we're very passionate to ensure we are a bicultural school and that we absolutely acknowledge our belief and our passion for our tamariki," she said.

"Over the three years that I've been here we've looked back at and reconnected with our kaumatua in the community, and come back to relearn the history of our name and our land.

"It's very much about bringing together our whanau, not just for us but also for Te Puna Ako.

Part of the morning included the school's kapa haka group receiving Manaia as taonga, donated by the family of a student.

The Manaia were carved and presented to Val Cullen and her marching team in 1977 to wear as good luck in competitions.

May Bennett and Isabella Cullen with the taonga. Photo / Abe Leach
May Bennett and Isabella Cullen with the taonga. Photo / Abe Leach

"It's incredible that the blessing of these taonga have come from whanau," Bennett said.

"We grow as a school and reconnect with our community so we take our kapa haka group and perform at nearby rest homes.

"The first rest home we go to next term will be to visit and perform for the great-grandmother of one of our students who has given us the taonga."

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Maihi said there was a special connection between planting the trees and receiving the taonga.

"It's very relevant when the school receives living taonga made of wood and for it to come from a grandmother is massive.

"I think the co-ordination of bringing the two events together fully marks the occasion of Puanga, the beginning of the new season, the time of planting and preparing for the harsh times and the good times."

After the ceremony parents and children packed into the school hall for hot drinks and bacon, eggs, and toast.

Bennett thanked those who helped with bringing the morning together and Pak'nSave and Countdown Victoria Ave for supplying the food.

May Bennett and Isabella Cullen with the taonga. Photo / Abe Leach
May Bennett and Isabella Cullen with the taonga. Photo / Abe Leach