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In the stars . . . Waitaki District Libraries kairuruku ratonga Maori (co-ordinator of Maori services) Lisa Potaka Ross is excited about the Matariki celebrations planned for the community this month. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Waitaki families are encouraged to join celebrations planned for the country’s first Matariki public holiday.

The beginning of the Maori lunar new year is being marked in Oamaru with two free community events, organised by Waitaki District Libraries and Te Runanga o Moeraki.

Maori astronomy expert Victoria Campbell will make a presentation at the Oamaru Opera House Ink Box, on Wednesday, June 22, and the following morning, Matariki would be observed in the morning sky from Cape Wanbrow lookout.

Waitaki District Libraries kairuruku ratonga Maori (co-ordinator of Maori services) Lisa Potaka Ross said Mrs Campbell (Kai Tahu) would share korero (speech) about tatai aroraki (astronomy), with a focus on Matariki.

It was ‘‘quite a coup’’ to have Mrs Campbell here to speak at her busiest time of year, Ms Potaka Ross said.

She was a member of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve Board, and also in the advisory group involved in establishing Matariki as a national public holiday.

‘‘She’s got heaps of mana,’’ Ms Potaka Ross said.

‘‘We’re really lucky to have her so near the actual holiday.’’

Mrs Campbell would korero about how people could participate in Matariki and celebrate in their own homes, Ms Potaka Ross said.

‘‘In this holiday that’s unique to us, as New Zealanders.’’

The talk would take about an hour, and there would be a question-and-answer session at the end. The following morning, those who attended the presentation were encouraged to gather at the lookout at 6.30am.

Te Runanga o Moeraki kaiwhakahaere (chairman) Justin Tipa would join Mrs Campbell to share cultural traditions surrounding the occasion.

‘‘That’s going to be a really neat experience too,’’ Ms Potaka Ross said.

‘‘I think, the importance is, that people have attended the thing the night before, because they’re going to go there so much better informed, in terms of looking at doing the stargazing. . .but also to be ready for some of those unique things that we’ll get to experience up there.’’

Library staff would lead the waiata, with public drop-in sessions to learn the songs, probably beginning the Tuesday after Queen’s Birthday weekend, Ms Potaka Ross said.
Further information would be posted on the library’s Facebook page.

‘‘We will also post some video of the songs, so people can learn them that way, at home, as well.’’

Although the event was free, bookings for Mrs Campbell’s presentation were essential, with seats in the Ink Box limited to 100. Online bookings were preferred, but spots could also be reserved at the opera house box office.

The event was ‘‘such a new thing’’, Ms Potaka Ross had no idea how it would go, but she felt it would be an event that would continue to grow each year.

‘‘What I’m really, really excited about, is that we are working in partnership with the runanga, with the mana whenua.

‘‘We’re just so pleased, so privileged. It’s been something we [the library] have been all working on, and this feels like a celebration of that as well.’’

Matariki celebrations in the library would begin the week of June 20.