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Ngā whetū o Matariki – The stars of Matariki

This Friday’s public holiday is New Zealand’s first formal celebration and recognition of Matariki and the Māori New Year.

Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as, amongst other things, Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, and Subaru. The cluster of nine stars rises as one group in our sky in June/July and signifies the start of the Māori New Year.

Traditionally it’s a time for rest, reflection, celebration, hope, and festivity after the harvesting of crops; a time for honouring ancestors and celebrating life. In Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) each of the whetū (stars) of Matariki is associated with different domains of our environment and surroundings.

Matariki is highly regarded and especially celebrated within Manaaki Whenua as many of the nine stars also link to the important research undertaken by, and values held, within our organisation. For example, the Matariki star speaks to caring for the environment, Tupu-ā-nuku to soil and land-use, while Tupu-ā-rangi links to our biodiversity, Waitī to our freshwater resources, and Waipuna-ā-rangi to climate change.

This year, best time to view the rise of the Matariki star cluster in the winter skies is before sunrise between 21st June and 29th June.

Take a closer look at the nine stars and what they represent.



Matariki is the star of reflection, hope, our connection to the environment and the gathering of people. She is often seen as the mother star which the other eight stars feed into.


Pōhutukawa is the star associated with caring for the spirits of those that have passed during the previous year.


Tupu-ā-nuku is the star associated with everything that grows within the soil to be harvested or gathered for food. If she was bright in the morning sky before the rising of the sun, it was a sign that crops would grow well, be plentiful. And, so, if she was dim, the news wasn’t as great.


Tupu-ā-rangi is connected to the ngāhere (forests) and everything that grows above the ground and up trees: fruits, berries, and birds. This star’s brightness would tell about when to hunt and preserve birds, and how bountiful berries would be.


Waitī is all about freshwater and is associated with all rivers, streams and lakes, and the food sources within them. If it was bright, it would be a sign of the health of the waterways.

Waitā Waitā

Waitā is saltwater and is associated with all the creatures that come from Tangaroa (god of the ocean), and represents food gathered from the sea. Once again, the brighter the star is it would be a sign the kaimoana (seafood) would be abundant that year.


Waipuna-ā-rangi is connected with the rain and is used as an indicator of what the season ahead will be like. When the star is dim and seems to be moving in the morning sky, this is a sign there will be less rain, more water shortages and dry spells.

Ururangi Ururangi

Ururangi is the star associated with the winds. An important star for indicating how much wind there would be. Especially important for ocean navigators.


Hiwa-i-te-rangi is connected to a wish/promise of a prosperous season. The star holds hopes and dreams and is associated with people granting wishes and releasing their desires for the coming year.