Row, row, row your Matariki waka
The Pleiades, painted rocks and a picture book have combined to help celebrate Matariki, the Maori New Year, in Manawatu.
Matariki is the Maori name for the star cluster known as the Pleiades. This appears over New Zealand skies in June this year, and the first new moon after it rises marks the start of Maori New Year.
This year, the day of the new moon falls on June 25. To mark the occasion, Feilding-born author and illustrator Rebecca Larsen, who now lives in Papamoa, has taken inspiration from Palmy Rocks.
Eighteen painted glow-in-the-dark Matariki star rocks have been hidden in parks around the country, including one each in Palmerston North and Feilding.
"I published a couple of clues and a photo of the hiding place on Facebook," Larsen said.
Finders who posted pictures of themselves on Facebook with one of the star rocks win a copy of Larsen's book and accompanying music CD Row, Row, Row Your Waka, published late last year.
"I grew up in Feilding, and have family there and in Palmerston North, who hid them for me on the weekend."
The Palmerston North star, secreted in a tree in Memorial Park, was found by Whanganui woman Robyn Poutini.
"She said she hunted for about an hour in the rain for it."
Larsen said finding the rock was obviously special for Poutini – her 7-month-old daughter, Hiwaiterangi Poutini Manley-Green, is named for one of the stars in the Matariki cluster.
However, as of Wednesday, the Feilding star had not been found – or if it had, the finder had not yet posted a picture on Facebook.
Although she does not have Maori heritage herself, Larsen said te reo was an intrinsic part of New Zealand's identity and culture, and her song-book put a bilingual spin on the well-known Row, Row, Row Your Boat action song.
"I re-wrote it for my two boys. They liked the song and acting it out. I incorporated New Zealand verses and had it translated into te reo. My brother Richard and brother-in-law Paul Inia recorded the song."
In it, three flightless birds, a pukeko, a kiwi and a hoiho take a waka down the river.
"The last verse goes: 'Rock, rock, rock your waka/ through the starry night/ when it's June you'll see the moon/ and Matariki shining bright'."
Larsen hopes the simple tune and repetition will help children pick up Maori words. In August, she will embark on her own voyage to learn te reo and is working on another book with the same characters and a similar concept.