Aotearoa will celebrate its newest public holiday Matariki this month, when we look to the skies and cluster of stars to mark the Māori New Year.

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In Te Tai Tokerau, Puanga signals the turning of the year – a time of remembrance and reflection, a time to celebrate the present and to plan for the year ahead. 

Healthy Families Far North have embraced the occassion through wānanga this week, during the high energy phases of the maramataka, to collectively work on their strategic plan for the next four years.

Māori Systems Innovator Elizabeth Motu said Puanga, which heralds the beginning of Matariki, has helped navigate what the journey for Healthy Families Far North looks like moving forward. 

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 “It’s been an awesome couple of days where we’ve been able to embrace the meaning of Puanga through our mahi,” she said.

“We’ve got a new team and a lot of us didn’t really know the whakapapa of Healthy Families and we quickly realised that in order to celebrate where we are today, we needed to reflect and remember the past.” 

She said knowing your whakapapa is crucial to the journey.

“Without whakapapa there’s no sense of identity, so we needed to understand our whakapapa in order to know where we’re going and to forecast the winds as we journey towards te pae tawhiti – the long term vision.” 

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The team are using an indigenous innovation framework Hautu Waka, gifted by kaikōkōrangi Māori astrologer Papa Rereata Makiha, to inform and guide old-world teachings in a new-world setting.  

The five phases provide a greater level of understanding when thinking about our mahi and how our tūpuna used tohu or markers to appreciate where they were on their journey, while learning and exploring the open seas.  

“The work we do is very complex and there are times when we feel like we’re going around in circles or when we go out to test and the outcome is very different to what we expected,” said Motu.  

“This framework tells us that that’s okay. Sometimes you’ll make huge leaps forward and other times you’ll be waiting for a tohu... through research, through exploring, your waka will be back on its journey to Te Rawenga, its final destination.” 


Puanga, a time to connect with te taiao

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The cluster of stars, their locality and brightness have traditionally been used to understand our surroundings and the environment – whether it was to guide our tūpuna across the Pacific, or to determine the upcoming season crops.  

In the Far North, Puanga was always a time to closely observe our maramataka; a guide which signals our times of planting and fishing according to the phases of the moon.  

As part of the wānanga, the team took some time to connect with te taiao, to explore the backyard of Pukepoto and to reflect on how our economic and non-economic wellbeing is woven into the fabric of our environment.  

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“This hikoi for us was an opportunity for the team to learn the history of the rohe while tasting natures treasures inside the ngāhere,” said Motu.  

“In our mahi, our intentions are to have a Māori world view when it comes to co-designing with organisations or whānau towards better outcomes of our health and well-being and this was a great way for us to align to our taha wairua, taha hinegaro, taha tinana and taha whānau.”