The Māori New Year - Puanga for Whanganui people, Matariki for others - will be celebrated with karakia beside the river on July 15.

The occasion starts at 6am at Te Whakaniwha/Putiki Slipway. The karakia will be followed by kōrero and warm refreshments by the slipway.

Organising the Puanga celebrations is a group effort, and Nicole Dryden advises anyone attending should wear warm clothes to beat the predawn chill. People who are not well should follow the Covid-19 protocol and stay at home - they will be able to watch live on Facebook.

One of Whanganui's Puanga organisers, Nicole Dryden, dishes up porridge at a breakfast at Putiki Marae. Photo / Supplied
One of Whanganui's Puanga organisers, Nicole Dryden, dishes up porridge at a breakfast at Putiki Marae. Photo / Supplied

Puanga begins when the star Puanga, also known as Rigel, is seen in the morning sky. It has been visible there since last month, Whanganui Regional Museum kaiwhakaako Āwhina Twomey says.

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The karakia happen when the star is in the sky and during the nights of Tangaroa on the Māori lunar calendar.

Puanga celebrations are similar to those of any northern hemisphere new year, happening in midwinter.

After the warm months of physical activity it is time to feed the mind and spirit, with stories about the previous year and plans for the coming one.

For Māori, people who have died in the past year are named, and their stories are told. Traditional waiata and moteatea are revived and genealogies are recited.

Food and giving also play a part, Twomey said.

"The storehouses have been filled and over-filled. This is a time of celebration with food, and a time of giving, because we have so much.

"Enjoying each other's company and having food is a large part of it."