Rotorua’s Matariki celebration at Motutara Point last month has received a gold star from Te Arawa kōeke.
Healthy Families Rotorua lead systems innovator, Pirihira Whata, says the umu kohukohu whetū was hailed a success by kōeke at a recent follow-up hui with the event’s organising committee.
She says overall, everyone was pleased with how the ceremony went and the learnings would help with preparation for future umu kohukohu whetū.
“We’d hoped to have at least 400 people attend. So, we were thrilled when around 2,000 people got themselves out of bed at 5am to welcome the Māori New Year. While it could’ve been overwhelming, we embraced it. It was a beautiful experience and evidence that people are becoming more accepting of our traditional Māori values and beliefs.
“It allowed the people of Rotorua and visitors to come together. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from. The kōrero we received from attendees was they felt welcome and appreciated being able to be part of this celebration. We certainly see it growing in future years,” says Pirihira.
Attendees enjoyed a lightshow during the 20-minute walk from parking at Energy Events Centre to Motutara Point, while shuttles for pakeke and whānau with small children were appreciated by attendees.
Pirihira says working alongside Te Arawa, mana whenua, Council, and other partners was important to ensure the voice was a collaborative effort.
“One of our kai karanga had never performed a Matariki karanga because the occasion wasn’t celebrated when she was growing up. This was a first-time experience for her. She said once she understood what it was about, she was filled with an energy which carried her throughout the following week. She was running on a high for every hui after that.”
Keeping the ceremony as traditional as possible helped create an authentic atmosphere, Pirihira believes.
“We had originally planned to share the proceedings via technology to help keep people informed. However, we respected the wishes of our tohunga to keep the ceremony in its traditional state, which made it even more special. I feel honoured to have been part of this whole experience.
“One of the most significant by-products of the umu kohukohu whetū is the revitalisation of the name, Motutara. This area has been known by most people for many years as Sulphur Point. Now, when we talk about Motutara, everyone knows where it is,” she says.
The organising committee extends a massive shout-out to everyone who helped make Rotorua’s first official umu kohukohu whetū possible.