News & Events

Okoro Matariki Puanga bonfire

Thursday June 27 2019

Palmerston North will be celebrating Māori new year with what is expected to be the largest Matariki Puanga festival ever held in the city.

Event image for Okoro Matariki Puanga Bonfire 2019

Event image for Okoro Matariki Puanga Bonfire 2019

The event, next Saturday 6 July, will include a giant bonfire, marshmallow toasting, hangi, kapa haka, Māori storytelling and fire demonstrations.   

The celebration is being held at the Ruahine Street entrance of the Manawatū River from 4-7pm.   

The Palmerston North City Council and Rangitāne have been planning the event for the past couple of months. The goal has been to provide a fun, and educational atmosphere where the whole city can come together and celebrate an important time in the Maori calendar.   

Matariki is a cluster of stars known as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. The first new moon following the rise of Matariki is the first day of the Maori New Year. Matariki can be hard to see from Manawatū so some Māori instead give prominence to Puanga, another prominent star near Matariki.   

The river is very important to iwi and Council. As part of the Council’s Manawatū River Framework Strategy, we are committed to working with iwi to draw more people down to the river, and this is just one of the many exciting projects and events we are planning. Events like this ensure the river becomes a destination in our city where people come and spend time with their families and enjoy its beauty.   

The star attraction of the festival is a large bonfire made up of wood pulled from the river. A few times a year large amounts of wood that pile up are removed from the river to minimise any potential flooding. The good quality native wood is given to iwi for carving and the rest has been dried for the bonfire.   

Around the bonfire will be a series of smaller fires for people to toast marshmallows they’ve brought from home.  At 4.20pm iwi will lift hangi from the site and explain how the food has been cooked. Small samples will then be handed around for people to try. At 5 pm there will be a kapa haka performance, followed by iwi representatives telling the stories of Matariki and Puanga.  

The event will end with the Massey University Fire Club performing.   

Residents are being asked to wear sneakers as it may be muddy and bring a torch and blankets to sit on.   

We’ve been working with the Fire Service to ensure it’s a safe event for everyone. But, with a number of fires and the river nearby, we are asking that children are closely supervised at all times.