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Matariki celebrations underway as star cluster's rise heralds start of Māori New Year

It's Matariki - Māori New Year - and celebrations are underway. 

The cluster of stars known as Matariki are back in New Zealand's skies. 

This cluster disappears for about a month each year, and this morning it rose again.

"When it rises again it heralds the start of the Māori New Year," says Ataahua Papa, Auckland Council Festival Director.

Called Matariki, or Pleiades, the stars have traditionally been used by Māori to make predictions.

"Depending on which stars are shining brightly, that'll give us an indication of what our year is going to be like," Ms Papa said. 

Rereata Makiha, Far North kaumatua, told TVNZ1's Breakfast, "When we were up in the Pacific, and before the waka sailed down here, Matariki led everything into the morning sky. So Matariki ruled."

A light show on the Auckland Harbour Bridge is one of hundreds of events marking the celebration in Auckland. And in Wellington there'll be a fireworks display.

But Matariki doesn't signal the New Year for all Māori. Some look to a different star.

"Puanga is the bright star that rises above what people know as Orion's belt, or the teapot as it is. So if you're living on the West Coast what you're faced with is that the stars have got to rise above the mountain ranges before you can see them. And that's why we use Puanga," Mr Makiha said.

In Auckland's Stardome Observatory and Planetarium, Matariki is front and centre right now. 

"You don't need a telescope to see the stars. You can easily see them with your eyes. They can be a little bit tricky to see. They're not the brightest stars out there, but they're very distinctive looking," said Josh Kirkley of Stardome.

As for a top tip to catch a glimpse, Mr Kirkley said, "If you look for Orion - or the pot or the pan it's known as quite frequently here in Aotearoa. If you look just to the left of that in the morning hopefully you'll be able to spot it."

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June 25 marks the start of the Māori new year. Source: 1 NEWS