Absolutely positively Matatini

By Kelvin McDonald

Haka on red, pukana  on green!  The wero has gone out from those loving the new haka-themed traffic lights installed in central Wellington to celebrate Te Matatini ki te Ao 2019.

Wellington has pulled out all the stops to welcome Te Matatini to the city, beginning with a pōwhiri this morning that welcomed thousands to the capital.

To help mark the occasion, there was also a surprise addition to the city's many sparkling artworks that has fans of kapa haka absolutely positively thrilled. 

The city has installed kapa haka-themed traffic lanterns which feature a tāne in a haka stance for 'stop' and a wāhine performing ā-ringa or hand actions for 'walk'. 

Public Affairs Coordinator Dave Williams says the city council wanted to show their support for the event.

"We wanted to celebrate Māori culture in a very visible way during Te Matatini...We have already installed the Kate Sheppard and Carmen Rupe lanterns and have had positive feedback from people about using them to create a special character in various parts of the city.  The wāhine and warrior are a natural progression of that."

The new lanterns- designed in consultation with mana whenua- have been a hit with fans on social media.

One Te Kāea Facebook follower said, "Ka pai Whanganui A Tara !! Positively into it."

Another cheekily suggested, "Everytime the light is red you have to do a haka and when the lights are green pukana at all the cars while your (sic) walking past."

The council is encouraging people to look out for the lanterns around Waitangi Park, including the busy Manners, Taranaki, Dixon and Courtenay Streets intersections.

The lanterns will remain a permanent fixture in the city.

Te Taura Whiri Chief Executive Ngahiwi Apanui says this permanence was a major consideration.

"This one here was a big one for us because it’s permanent. We wanted for a while there to have 'e tū' for stop and 'haere' for cross but that couldn’t be done. So the next best thing was to have these icons."


The council is delighted by the warm reception for the lanterns and says it has more exciting plans to celebrate the special occasion, which is expected to bring thousands of people and millions of dollars of economic benefit to the region.

Te Matatini-inspired events in Wellington:

19-20 February, Hakapapa, Te Papa, Te Marae

Hakapapa is a pop-up textile exhibition that looks at the life of Wellington Kapa Haka and the uniforms of many teams that established in this region over the past 80 years. It runs from 1pm on 19 February till Te Papa closing on 20 February, before being moved to Westpac Stadium for Te Matatini.

18-23 February: Wellington International Airport, 7.30am to 9.30am and 4pm-6pm

Air travellers to and from Wellington will be treated to short kapa haka performances by a small group of kaumatua, alongside demonstrations in tukutuku (panel weaving), wood carving on an existing project, flax weaving, and a poi making workshop.

20-22 February: Te Papa open late Thu, Fri, Sat evenings

Open late with discount entry to Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality for Te Matatini ticket holders.

21-24 February: Cultural Hub, Odlins Plaza, Wellington Waterfront

A cultural hub with stage for musical acts and a big screen showing Māori films, live coverage of the Toi Māori Art Market demonstrations and Te Pohutu Nui Welly Bomb Comp. WREDA’s Virtual Reality experience WellTown will also be available for the public to experience on 23-24 February. Te Matatini kapa haka action will not be screened live on the big screen. That’s best experienced live at Westpac Stadium.

22-24 February: Toi Māori Art Market, Te Wharewaka o Pōneke, Wellington Waterfront

A range of contemporary Māori art ready for the discerning art collector and lovers of beautiful objects, as well as Māori art and craft demonstrations.

23 February: Te Pohutu Nui: Welly Bomb Comp, diving platform, Wellington Waterfront, Time 9.30-3pm

Manu (bombs) are a core part of being Kiwi and an activity that will connect strongly with the young and young at heart. So why not celebrate Te Matatini with a competition to find the best bomber in the land and win a share of prizes valued at more than $2000.

23-25 February: The Performance Arcade, follow the Pink Line, Wellington Waterfront, 10am-11pm

While not strictly a Te Matatini event, The Pink Line provides a harbourside “walking menu” with a pop-up bar, food offerings and displays, and tales with a culinary bent which will severely tempt your taste buds and add to the overall waterfront buzz. (returns for 4 days on 1-4 March).

Throughout February, free public art, Lightbox Gallery, Courtenay Place

Award-winning artist Chevron Hassett, of Ngati Porou, Rongomaiwahine, Ngati Kahungunu ki Mahia and Pakeha heritage, exhibits his work inspired by Te Matatini.