Thirty-two keen local goers braved the cold last week to attend an event at Mt Holdsworth billed as ‘A Night with Waiti: A Spotlighting Adventure’.
The event was run by the environmental organisation Mountains to Sea Wellington [MTSW] to celebrate the lead-up to Matariki on July 14.
MTSW co-manager Sarah Kachwalla said she was thrilled with the demand for the event, which was booked out in one day.
“Over four-fifths of participants said they had not attended a freshwater education event before, so we will definitely be doing more programmes like this in the future,” Kachwalla said.
Wairarapa-based MTSW freshwater coordinator Kara Kenny led the event, sharing her vast knowledge of Waiti, the star within the Matariki constellation associated with all freshwater and food sources.
Kenny described the night as “incredible – walking through the dark forest with the rain graciously joining us”.
“The raindrops added an unexpected touch; it was like nature was collaborating with us on our journey with Waiti,” she said.
Along the way, Kenny shared the story of Waiti, educating those involved about the tradition of gathering kēwai [freshwater crayfish] to celebrate Matariki.
“Seeing participants immersed in the beauty of the forest, their spotlights mingling with the rain, was a sight to behold,” Kenny said.
“The interactive storytelling, spotlighting sessions and investigating tau koura [method of gathering kēwai] truly immersed us in the cultural significance and interconnectedness of it all.”
Participants were shown tau koura using a bracken fern; the children then helped to deconstruct it afterwards and returned the fronds to the forest floor.
MTSW events and volunteer coordinator Tegan Ranstead said her favourite part of the night was the experience of looking for wildlife in the forest and seeing how much the children enjoyed it.
A memorable moment was when the group stopped at the river at Donnelly Flat for a moment of karakia [prayer] and were invited to choose a stone that “spoke to them”.
This time was to allow them to take a moment to reflect on the past year, before each person returned their stone to the awa [stream] as a way to connect with Waiti.
Lauren Spicer attended the event with her husband, daughter, and granddaughter.
“Learning outside the classroom is so valuable,” she said, “and the tamariki [children] really enjoyed being hands-on in the environment, exploring the forest in the dark, and hearing stories about our awa, Matariki, and the star Waiti.”