A Waikato town known for its cave tourism is set to celebrate Matariki this year with its first-ever week-long festival in the caves — including a special underground musical performance.
Matariki ki Waitomo will be held from July 3 to 10.
Organisers say the Waitomo festival will provide a unique way for visitors to learn and experience the story of the Māori New Year through a series of paid and free events — including art exhibitions; twilight tours; dining events; cave tours; and a concert within the stunning “cathedral”, a majestic cavern within the caves known for its acoustic properties.
“Matariki is a celebration of people, culture, and nature; and as we celebrate the Matariki stars high in the sky above, visitors to Waitomo can also enjoy the starry skies beneath the ground, as glowworms illuminate and guide the way for manuhiri in the caves,” Discover Waitomo general manager Tim Loxton said.
Local artists, weavers and carvers will have their artwork on display throughout the week, and visitors will have the opportunity to hear from speakers including guests from Te Waka o Matariki, a traditional Māori healing group based in Ngāti Maniapoto, and Kaimahi for Nature, a collaboration between the Department of Conservation (DOC), Discover Waitomo, iwi and hapu that has taught new knowledge and skills to the workforce.
Matariki ki Waitomo will begin with an opening evening of celebrations with a twilight cave tour, and end with a one-night-only evening of music and dining to celebrate Matariki, including a rare underground performance from local singers within the cathedral.
Matariki will be made a public holiday from next year.