Ngāti Rangi celebrate Puanga

By Regan Paranihi

Ngāti Rangi gathers for Puanga (Credit: Leah Te Whata).

Descendants of Ngāti Rangi gathered on Mt Ruapehu this morning to celebrate Puanga. 

Puanga is the star that signifies the beginning of the Māori New Year on the West Coast, it also signifies how the weather will be this year.

It's an opportunity for the iwi and community to celebrate their mountain, remember loved ones and look forward to the fruits of the new year. 

Flames of the horizon signify a new year for Ngāti Rangi and descendants of Whanganui.

Che Wilson says, "For us, in the old days we would come up the mountain to pray to the mountain...to clear it for the community."

it's also a time when karakia is conducted to ensure the way is clear for those who are skiing here and to honour the arrival of winter. 

"Because the rise of Puanga and Matariki are close we've combined both gatherings.  We start down below where we pray to the mountain, then we come here to the fire where we release the names of the dead to the underworld," says Wilson.

"In the old days during the cold times we would embark on the Whanganui River where we would stay to see the rise of Matariki, but we saw Puanga instead.  Therefore we look to Puanga and those stars are the ones who guide us."

The iwi begins to focus on the shining star when they see seeds blossom and plenty of lampreys.

"From May to August we look at the condition of the trees of the birds because there are only a few that we see on the Whanganui River."

Puanga is not yet visible in the sky but these descendants know when she will shine through.

"We look to the eastern and southern side of the river to see Puanga rise and her symbols relate to the rain."

This is the first blessing for this year and a closing blessing will be held in Whanganui at the end of this month.