A Matariki event aims to have fires along the Hawke’s Bay coast from Cape Kidnappers to Tāngoio. Organisers hope Matariki Mahuika, or Home Fires, will become an annual Matariki tradition. Photo / Putaanga Waitoa
Fires lighting the Hawke’s Bay coast from Cape Kidnappers to Tāngoio will be a signature Matariki celebration this month.
The idea to encourage community run fires across about 60 kilometres of beach from 5pm on July 15 has the approval of Fire and Emergency New Zealand, local councils and iwi.
Organisers hope Matariki Mahuika or Home Fires, named for Mahuika, the Goddess of fire, will become an annual Matariki tradition where people are encouraged to go to the beach and either join with others or light their own beacon fires.
Event organiser Neill Gordon said in a statement that he and fellow organiser Te Rangi Huata, Ngati Kahungunu’s events manager, originally had aspirations for the event to be even bigger.
“We would have liked to light up the coast right around to Mahia but ironically, there is too much wood on the northern Hawke’s Bay beaches for that to be safe this year,” Gordon said.
“Cyclone Gabrielle has gifted us an excess of driftwood and one of the rationales for the project is that the wood is likely to be set on fire at Guy Fawkes, New Year or some other occasion and it makes more sense to do this in July at a time of low-fire risk.”
Gordon said people traditionally lit fires along Hawke’s Bay beaches for Guy Fawkes in November, but he believed Matariki Mahuika would be a bit safer and more family-friendly with less dry conditions and an earlier sunset for young kids.
“Anybody who has ever seen the Napier Hastings shoreline dotted with Guy Fawkes bonfires knows what a beautiful spectacle it is and we believe Matariki Mahuika will light up the night better than ever before,” Gordon said.
Huata said in the statement that the event would be the perfect way to bring people together to celebrate Matariki.
“I’m 100 per cent behind this and am certain it will capture people’s imaginations,” he said.
FENZ Hawke’s Bay Community Risk Manager Nigel Hall advised anyone considering lighting a fire to consult www.Checkitsalright.nz.
“We can’t stop people burning in an open season and want people to be able to enjoy this culturally significant event in a safe way,” Hall said.
He said precautions include checking forecasted winds will not exceed 20 km/hr for the duration of the burn, not lighting more than you can manage or extinguish, ensuring the material to be burnt is at least 10 metres away from other combustible material, creating a non-combustible fire break a minimum of 5 metres around your bonfire, making sure the fire is completely extinguished once completed and wearing appropriate clothing.
People can register their intention to take part by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Participants will be advised on the best practice and potentially alerted to a postponement to July 22 if there is adverse weather.