Food at the heart of Matariki celebrations

This Matariki, the Māori New Year, communities across New Zealand come together to celebrate with food. For farmers, this special time aligns with the end of our financial year, making it a perfect opportunity to reflect, share, and plan for the future.

image of farming looking at stars in sky

Matariki marks the appearance of the Pleiades star cluster in the early morning sky and is recognised as the Māori New Year. This year’s theme, Matariki heri kai (the feast of Matariki), highlights food's role in bringing people together, an idea that is especially relevant to our industry.  

Māori play a crucial role in the red meat industry, making up nearly 40 percent of New Zealand’s meat processing workforce and 15 percent of sheep and beef exports come from Māori farming interests. This connection is reinforced by Matariki, which closely aligns with the New Zealand farming calendar. For many sheep and beef farmers, the balance date of June 30 or July 1 marks the end of the farming year and the beginning of a new cycle. 

Phil Weir, B+LNZ Northern North Island Farmer Director says, “Matariki is a special time where the local community increasingly comes together to share kai (food). It has a natural fit with farming as it coincides with the end of our financial year and for us farmers, these cycles form the basis of our daily and seasonal lives.” 

“It’s an opportunity to celebrate our successes, reflect on the past year, and to set our intentions for the year ahead.” 

Food has always been a central theme in Matariki celebrations. Historically, the appearance of the Matariki star cluster in winter would signal to Māori the time to evaluate the success of the year's harvests and to plan for future planting and gathering. Today, food continues to play a vital role, serving as a means to bring people together and foster community spirit. 

Weir adds, “As food producers, we should take immense pride in the fact that our work helps to bring communities together during this special time. Enjoy your anniversaries in whatever way they form.” 

About Matariki and the connection with land 

The theme for 2024 is ‘Matariki heri kai’ and comes from the Māori proverb ‘Matariki whetū heri kai’ meaning ‘Matariki, the bringer of food’. 

Food is central to the celebration of Matariki, and Māori believe that the appearance of Matariki in the morning sky in winter would determine the success or failure of kai harvesting.  

Different stars in the cluster have an association to the various domains from where food is sourced, in particular: gardens (Tupuānuku), forests (Tupuārangi), fresh water (Waitī) and the ocean (Waitā). 

Charles Taituha, B+LNZ’s Pouhere Rautaki Ahuwhenua Māori (Māori Strategy and Relationship Lead) says, “This connection reaffirms relationships with our environment and signifies the importance of food in the celebration of Matariki.  

“Building on last year’s theme ‘Matariki kāinga hokia’ we encourage people to view Matariki as a time to journey home, spend time with whānau and friends, and enjoy feasting on fresh, locally sourced produce,” he says. 

2025 Ahuwhenua Trophy in Sheep and Beef 

One of the key events that coincides with Matariki is the National Fieldays at Mystery Creek, where farmers gathered from all over New Zealand. 

Here, the Ahuwhenua Excellence in Māori Farming Trophy was officially handed over to B+LNZ, a member of the steering committee and sponsor for the 2025 Ahuwhenua Trophy – Excellence in Māori Farming Sheep & Beef Awards. 

The Ahuwhenua Trophy acknowledges and celebrates business excellence in the New Zealand pastoral sector and is open to Māori farming properties either owned individually, or managed by Māori Trusts and Incorporations in New Zealand. 

Each year the award alternates between beef and sheep, horticultural and dairy farms, with 2025 being for Māori sheep and beef farmers. 

B+LNZ is proud to support this prestigious award and celebrate excellence and innovation in Māori farming. 

Entries for the Ahuwhenua Trophy will open later in the year so follow the Ahuwhenua Trophy social media pages  

Visit the Ahuwhenua Trophy website to learn more. 

Ahuwhenua Trophy website

Image of B+LNZ's CE Sam McIvor, B+LNZ's Chair and Farmer Director Kate Acland, and B+LNZ's Māori Strategy & Relationship Lead Charles Taituha with the Ahuwhenua Trophy.