Puanga Rising in Majestic Square

Published on 02 June 2022

Pleiades Matariki star cluster

Mainstreet Whanganui media release

With a new Matariki public holiday observed across the country this year, Whanganui will celebrate its own form of the Māori New Year, Puanga, with a free community event in Majestic Square on the evening of Friday 24 June. 

Puanga Rising will run from 5.30pm–8.30pm with a mix of live music, art displays, cultural performances, and kai from a range of food stalls. 

The event is being organised by Mainstreet Whanganui and Whanganui District Council, with support from the Whanganui Regional Māori Tourism Organisation and the Town Centre Regeneration project. 

Mainstreet Whanganui General Manager, Des Warahi, says it will be fantastic to have a whanau-focused event in the heart of our city to celebrate our region’s rich Māori heritage and shine a spotlight on our talented local artists.  

“With this new public holiday, we have an opportunity to create something special in Whanganui that brings people of all ages and backgrounds together to learn about Puanga, enjoy awesome live entertainment and sample delicious kai.”  

Whanganui District Mayor, Hamish McDouall, says he’s excited about the prospect of a new event in our town centre, especially one that offers a chance to learn about our region’s unique traditions. 

“For most of Aoteaora the Māori new year focuses on the Matariki star cluster. Here in Whanganui, tāngata whenua have traditionally looked to the rising of Puanga (the star Rigel). Coinciding with the end of harvest, this period has traditionally been celebrated as a time of abundance – so it will be great to capture that spirit with Puanga Rising.” 

The event will showcase a range of local performers including taonga pūoro practitioner Tom Carroll, storyteller Lisa Reweti, singer songwriter Bobbi Rae and veteran reggae group Roots Providers – along with waiata and kapa haka. A full line up of performers will be announced closer to the date. 

As well as live entertainment, the event will feature traditional Māori games facilitated by Sport Whanganui and Te Oranganui, digital art projections by local artists, traditional hīnaki (woven eel pots) on display, and creative lighting created by workshops at the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua. 

Puanga Rising will be strictly alcohol and smoke-free. In the event of wet weather, the event will be shifted to Saturday 25 June. This celebration is part of a wider calendar of community events and activities to mark Puanga. For details on other events taking place across the region, follow the Whanganui Māori Regional Tourism Organisation on Facebook.   

More information about the new Matariki public holiday