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Last weekend’s Matariki celebrations heralded a new era of community involvement in Oamaru’s Te Whare Koa marae.

The France St marae hosted visitors to observe the appearance of the Matariki constellation, symbolising the new year in Maori culture.

They received a traditional welcome and shared a hangi, and about a dozen took up the invitation to stay overnight.

A 6am wake-up call meant they were able to see Matariki, accompanied by a talk from local astronomer Damien McNamara.

The weekend also featured hui to discuss plans for the coming year, kapa haka performances and learning Maori songs.

Marae trustee Angela Taylor said the entire event was organised within a month. It began from a suggestion by the Waitaki Maori Culture Club she runs at the marae each Monday night.

The club wanted “an excuse” to perform in public, she said.

Ms Taylor offered to take care of the food preparation, while fellow trustee Nadia Te Moananui led the crew putting down the hangi.

Contributions were received from local businesses and whanau.

“It all ran on donations. The marae just brought skills.”

People from Waikato attended, along with representatives from the Oamaru high schools.

“We wanted to get everyone involved,” Ms Taylor said.

“Matariki is all about burying the hatchet and starting again.”

It was also a time to plan activities in keeping with nature-based cycles, such as planting food crops, she said.

“At the powhiri, visitors were envious of the love and culture.

“We turn no-one away. They were showing up at all hours.

“I loved how the kids loved Damien’s talk.”

The next significant event on the Maori calendar to be celebrated at the marae would be Waitangi Day. That was focused on coming together and inclusivity.

Ms Taylor hoped there could be more education on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Schools were interested in increasing their knowledge of Maori culture and were getting more confident in embracing it, she said.

The marae has just three trustees to administer it – Ms Te Moananui, Ms Taylor, and Joseph Cropley, an experienced youth worker.