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Matariki 2022

Information about Matariki celebrations within New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and available resources.

What is Matariki?

Matariki is the Māori name for a cluster of stars named Pleiades which rises in midwinter. When it can be seen twinkling in the pre-dawn sky, this signals the start of a new year for many Māori.

It’s an opportunity for all people to gather with family and friends to reflect on the year that’s been, celebrate the present, and plan for the future.

And this year, on June 24th, Matariki will become a new public holiday for Aotearoa New Zealand. While the date of the public holiday will shift each year to align with the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar), it will always be observed on a Friday - usually in late June or early July.

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Why do we celebrate?

Matariki was once a way of life. Celebrations had largely stopped by the 1940s, but were revived in the 2000s and continue to grow each year.

The celebration of Matariki is essentially based around three things:

  • Remembrance: Matariki is a time to remember and honour our loved ones who have passed away in the last year, releasing their spirits to become stars which shine down from the heavens.
  • Celebrating the present: Traditionally celebrations followed the busy harvest season. Matariki is a time for communities and whānau to reconnect, reflect and give thanks for the blessings of the past year, and feast on the fruits of the harvest. 
  • Looking to the future: Matariki is also about planning for the coming season; coming together to korero (talk) about our hopes, dreams and concerns. Traditionally tohunga (experts) would look to the star cluster to predict how abundant the next harvest would be - bright, clear stars promised a warm growing season.
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How we plan to celebrate this year

The focus for the NZDF this Matariki is to shine a light on whanaungatanga - let's connect with our people again. 

At the heart of whanaungatanga, is whānau (family). It’s about relationships, strengthening ties, and working together to provide a sense of unity and kinship within our NZDF family.

So get your whānau together this Matariki, reflect on the year that’s been, look at your relationships with each other, and turn to the future together.

The focus for the NZDF this Matariki is to shine a light on whanaungatanga - let's connect with our people again. 

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What you can do to celebrate Matariki

Download the resource here (pdf, 1MB) 


The appearance of Matariki heralds a time of remembrance, something which is of great importance to NZDF. You could:

  • Hold a remembrance service acknowledging those who have passed during the last year, sharing their stories, photos and memories, and a karakia (prayer).
  • Have a virtual get together to honour those who went before.
  • Create a memory-sharing space in your workplace for remembering those who have passed, or sing a waiata together.


Matariki provides a time for us to reconnect with our environment, especially when it comes to food gathering, preparing and sharing. You could:

  • Hold a morning tea themed around gathering foods that relate to the Matariki stars, such as kai from the ground, sky and trees, rivers, streams and lakes, and from the sea (kumara, fish, fruit, hangi).
  • Do a working bee at a local community garden - harvesting or planting.
  • Get involved in some harakeke weaving as a group and get to know each other more as you talk while learning.
  • Engage in learning more about traditional Māori medicines (Kawakawa, Mānuka, Harakeke).
  • Take a walk with colleagues - to spaces around water or parks to engage with nature.


Look to the future during Matariki by sharing your wishes and desires. This can include reflection and learning, sharing, discussion and decision making. You could: 

  • Get together as a team, group or family and create goals for the year ahead.
  • Using the NZDF Leadership framework, Lead Self Development Guide, reflect on how you developed this year.
  • Review the Te Whare Tapa Whā health model and set personal goals for the year ahead.
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Other useful information when planning Matariki celebrations 

Navigating by the stars in the military 

Matariki and other star clusters were used by the crews of voyaging waka, to help them navigate great distances across the Pacific. While we now have modern technology, our Air Force, Navy and Army are also taught to navigate by the stars, should they need to. 

The dates during Matariki hold different meanings

21 June “Tangaroa ā mua” - Start of the high energy and productive period. A good time for group activities, creativity, being close to the sea. Take a walk down the waterfront.

22 June “Tangaroa ā roto” - A good time for team events, doing things with whānau. Talk, connect and share ideas. Get physical, get moving. 

23 June “Tangaroa Whakapau” - A great time to reflect and look forward. Have a shared lunch or smoko.

24 June “Tangaroa Whāriki Kiokio” - The high activity period continues. Start of the public holiday and long weekend. Enjoy being with whānau and friends. Spend time outdoors, go for a bush walk or walk along the beach. Cook a family favourite. Check in on a friend.

25 June “Otāne”

26 June “Orongonui” - This is a high activity  period, great time to be active, try something new. 

27 June “Ōmutu”- Start of low activity period, good time to start recharging. Contemplate, review, relax. 

28 June “Mutuwhenua”- Good time to treat yourself, do something you enjoy.

29 June “Whiro” - Continue to recharge and nurture your wairua (soul). 

Matariki and Puanga

Information from Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

All iwi celebrate the Māori New year in June or July.

Some iwi in the South Island, Whanganui, Taranaki, and the Far North refer to this time of year as Puanga, rather than Matariki.

That’s because the Matariki star cluster is hard to see clearly in these parts of the country, so iwi place importance on the star Puanga which is the next significant star closest to Matariki - and easier to see in twilight.

Ngai Tahu in the South Island call the star Puaka.

The meaning of the stars

Information from Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Matariki is an abbreviation of ‘Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea’, which means ‘The eyes of the god Tāwhirimātea’.

According to Māori tradition, when Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother) were separated by their offspring, one of their sons Tāwhirimātea (god of the winds) became angry and tore out his eyes - hurling them into the heavens.

Some iwi believe there are seven stars in the cluster, while others say there are nine.

These are the identities of the stars as outlined by leading Tūhoe astronomer Dr Rangi Matamua, who says his tūpuna counted nine stars:

  • Matariki: the star that signifies well-being, reflection, hope and the gathering of people; considered to be a female star which is the guardian of the other stars in the cluster. The name Matariki denotes both this individual star and the whole cluster.
  • Waitī: the star linked with fresh water and food that comes from fresh water.
  • Waitā: the star linked with the ocean and food that comes from it.
  • Tupuānuku: the star linked with food that grows in the ground.
  • Tupuārangi: the star linked with food that comes from the skies: fruits, berries, and birds.
  • Waipunarangi: the star linked with the rain.
  • Ururangi: the star that determines the winds for the year.
  • Pōhutukawa: the star associated with those who have died.
  • Hiwa-i-te-rangi: the star associated with dreams and aspirations for the coming year.

Others say Matariki is the mother surrounded by her six daughters - Tupuānuku, Tupuārangi, Waitī, Waitā, Waipunarangi and Ururangi. Some believe Matariki and her daughters appear to help Te Rā (the sun), whose winter journey from the north has left him weakened.