Arrowtown Charitable Trust: Matariki Light Festival

Matariki Light Festival Website Hero image resized

The excitement was illustrated on the faces of the children racing around with their friends, climbing up and down off the stage and enjoying the atmosphere of the opening of the inaugural Matariki Arrowtown Lights event.

Thousands took to the main street of Kā Muriwai / Arrowtown to celebrate Matariki with waiata, kapa haka, illuminations, projections, fire dancing, dancing fairies, music and kai.

A mihi, karakia and waiata tautoko by Cory Ratahi and Ngā Manu Hou o Whakatipu began the formalities.  Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult completed the official opening.

“Matariki is a time for renewal, reflection and celebration of our connection with each other, our whanau and our amazing environment. It’s a time for hope… It’s also a time for us to reflect and acknowledge the contribution of our ancestors who paved the way for our way of life in this wonderful part of the world.” Mayor Jim Boult.

As the sun set Arrowtown’s historic buildings were lit up as never before. The meaning of Matariki and the beginning of the Māori New Year was explored through illuminations and projections by the South Island Light Orchestra.  The wonders of the Matariki stars, astrophotography, and Otago’s dark night skies were shared by one of the world’s pre-eminent astrophysicists, Professor Brian Boyle, to a captivated audience.

Local schools have been celebrating Matariki for a decade. This year the introduction of a public holiday offered an opportunity to turn this into a bigger three day event centred on the understanding of Matariki.

In partnership with Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association the Arrowtown Charitable Trust worked closely with local Iwi and the schools to develop the event. The inaugural event focused on engaging, entertaining and educating attendees on the cultural significance of Matariki.

"We’ve really utilised the community, and the schools in particular — they were involved with 3-D projections and art installations in the town, all about Matariki and what it means to them.  We worked closely with Iwi representatives to ensure culture and education was at the forefront of our event and to ensure visitors and our community developed a deeper understanding of Matariki in the process." Nicky Busst, Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association Manager.  

The entire local community embraced the event from day one with local businesses offering their own store light displays along Buckingham and surrounding streets adding to the festival feel.

Buckingham Green overflowed with a captivated audience as the Arrowtown Primary School performed a beautiful waiata and stirring kapa haka.  As the sun set and the tree lit up the stage, all was set for this inaugural event, which is expected to grow in years to come.