Mass haka at Matariki dawn karakia in Auckland

By Jessica Tyson

Tāmaki Makaurau kicks off its Matariki Festival with two events this weekend; a Harbour Bridge lights show and dawn karakia where a mass haka is expected to take place.

Tomorrow at 6am iwi Te Kawerau ā Maki will host the karakia at the Arataki Visitor Centre located at the heart of Te Waonui a Tiriwa, the Waitākere Ranges.

It'll feature karanga, the sounds of ancient karakia and waiata composed specifically to mark the occasion - but a major highlight will be the mass haka with hundreds of people, including school children, taking part.   

The haka, written by first-time composer Tyler Rakataura Taua-Gordon, will celebrate the history of Te Kawerau ā Maki. 

“This is the first haka written specifically for our iwi,” says the 23-year-old. “I am honoured that the wero was extended to me, a rangatahi of our tribe.” 

Named Te Kawerau ā Maki, it was inspired by the tribe’s pepeha, while also acknowledging the past with some cheeky kupu taken from an old whānau haka. 

As a teacher aide at Kelston Intermediate, Taua-Gordon wanted the haka to be solid, yet basic enough for tamariki to learn.

With the help of students from his kura, he has spent the past few months teaching the haka to primary and intermediate-aged children at seven West Auckland schools. 

“It is written for those who whakapapa to our iwi and for those who acknowledge Te Kawerau ā Maki, like many of our local schools and community groups. Through this haka, we have taught more than 600 people about our tupuna, our waka and our whenua.”

Lights show

Meanwhile, on Sunday the lights show will open for the first time and is set to transport viewers to a world of Māori history and legends.

The show and accompanying soundtrack celebrates the story of Te Kawerau a Maki’s arrival in Tāmaki Makaurau and their role as kaitiaki over the Waitākere Ranges.

It'll include visuals of the Matariki stars, taniwha, pōhutukawa, giant waka and the mighty kauri.

The show will run every hour from 6pm to midnight on Sunday July 1, then every Friday and Saturday through to July 21.  It is 10 minutes in duration and will repeat on the hour from 6pm to midnight.

Photo source: Chris Weissenborn

Story behind the light show

As part of the show, taniwha Paneiraira swoops and dives across the Harbour Bridge as the kaitiaki for the waka that the original descendants of Te Kawerau ā Maki travelled on from Hawaikii to Aotearoa.

As Tainui waka approaches, Paneiraira beats the waves down to ensure it's safe passage.

As they first pulled ashore in Tāmaki Makaurau Tainui Waka was surrounded by the bright red bloom of pōhutukawa, which looked like Te Kura a Tainihinihi, the red feathers from Hawaiki.   

Te Kawerau ā Maki have a wide area of customary interest, including the former Waitākere city and ranges area, and their people travelled widely and built Pā in various sites around Auckland.

The iwi have placed a rāhui on the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area to protect the threat that kauri dieback poses to the extinction of the kauri.    

Kauri trees are the central component of indigenous forest ecosystems and as the Rangatira of the forest, they have been connected with Māori for centuries.

The full Auckland Matariki Festival programme can be found here.