Matariki celebrated

Last week’s announcement to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act of 2004 came in the exact time that we know in Whanganui and Taranaki as Puanga also known as Matariki the start of the Maori New Year.

Many Whanganui and Taranaki tribes celebrate the rising of Puanga instead of Matariki to signify the beginning of the New Year.

Puanga is the star which features in the sky just prior to Matariki and shows itself with the new moon of the first month of the cold season.

In years gone by, Puanga/Matariki was thought to determine your crop for the coming season. The brighter the stars, the more productive the crop would be.

Our people would come together after spending their time gathering kai, in preparation for the cold months ahead. This was a time of wananga, a time to feed the mind and spirit, to learn of whakapapa, to share hospitality, to be entertained and to learn.

It is also a time to reflect on our past, acknowledge those who have passed and look to the future.

What I saw last Wednesday as we celebrated the start of Puanga was a clear sky with the star constellations easily visible. A tohu of great things ahead! It certainly gave me every confidence as we look to the future with enthusiasm and determined that the time is right to be focusing on our pathway ahead and on the priorities we must set for ourselves in order to restore the mana eroded by the Foreshore and Seabed 2004 Act.

It is a time for peace, for optimism, for restoring the essence of who we are and I am confident that we have a way forward now.

Another important event for me is Volunteer Awareness Week and I would like to acknowledge the amazing contribution so many people already make, and to encourage other New Zealanders to offer what time they can to help their communities.

More than 1.2 million New Zealanders donate their time to help community organisations. These wonderful people are the backbone of our communities and without them many organisations would struggle to meet the demands they face every day.

There is nothing more inspiring than a community working together for a common goal.

As well as contributing to building a strong and healthy community, volunteering can also break down social barriers. There is so much we can do to make another life better.

It could be helping a main carer by spending some time with a person with disabilities – taking them to the park or a movie. Such small actions can be of huge value and I would encourage all New Zealanders to think about how they can contribute to their community.