Matariki Whetū Heri Kai – Matariki the bringer of food

Matariki Whetū Heri Kai – Matariki the bringer of food

Article by Toni Kererama, Para Kore

Matariki, the Māori New Year, is a time of reflection, connection, and celebration. As we approach this significant occasion, Toni Kereama from Para Kore shares with us her thoughts on the theme for this year: ‘Matariki Heri Kai’ inspired by the whakatauki ‘Matariki Whetū Heri Kai’ which translates to ‘Matariki, the bringer of food’.

This theme highlights the interconnectedness between the celestial and earthly realms, particularly in relation to kai.

Within the constellation of Matariki, four of the stars are closely associated with kai: Tupuānuku symbolises the bounty of gardens, Tupuārangi represents the abundance of forests, Waitī embodies the realm of fresh water, and Waitā signifies the ocean. In Māori tradition, the brightness of these stars during Matariki is believed to signal the prosperity of the corresponding food sources in the coming season, reinforcing the guidance that our environment offers when we are attuned.

Central to Māori culture, kai holds significant importance beyond its nutritional value. It is a symbol of hospitality, community, and care. Whānau gatherings are often centered around shared meals, where the act of preparing and partaking in kai, becomes a manifestation of manaakitanga, the concept of nurturing and supporting whānau, friends or visitors. When hosting others, offering ample kai is a gesture of generosity and respect, while bringing kai to share when visiting someone’s home is a customary display of gratitude and reciprocity.

Food Offering

In current times, when many whānau struggle with the pressures of rising living costs, the expression of manaakitanga becomes increasingly important. It is an opportunity to extend support to those in need within our communities. Surplus kai from the garden, such as silverbeet or cabbage, can be shared with other whānau, helping to ease financial worries and promote the spirit of community. Every dollar saved through the sharing of excess kai is precious and not only contributes to others physical nourishment, but likely also their mental wellbeing. A sense of relief of knowing that’s ‘one less’ thing that needs to be bought. By passing on kai we have too much of, we are also reducing food waste and doing our part to value the bounties of the environment.

Looking more broadly, do you have some free time to lend a hand at your local community garden? As we know, gardens can only thrive with care, and your contribution could make a significant difference. Whether it’s weeding, watering, or simply offering your presence, your support could be invaluable.

Engaging with community gardens not only provides a space for growing and accessing fresh kai, but also provides another space of belonging and mutual support. It’s an opportunity to share your expertise, or learn new skills, and, if you have children, involve them in a meaningful and educational experience. The benefits of participating in community gardening are immeasurable, both for whānau and the wider community.

As we learn more about and honor the traditions of Matariki, let us embrace the spirit of ‘Matariki Heri Kai’ by recognising the interconnectedness of food, culture, and community. By being part of a culture of sharing and abundance, we not only celebrate the preciousness of kai, but also pave the way for a more sustainable and collective future. This Matariki, let our acts of manaakitanga reflect the guiding light of the stars, illuminating the path towards collective wellbeing for all.


Para Kore deliver a te ao Māori based, zero-waste education programme called Oranga Taiao. This programme aims to design out waste and strengthen the connection to Papatūānuku and Ranginui. To find our more visit