As the stars of the Matariki constellation rise in the sky, we’ll be celebrating the Māori New Year with a five-day feast.

If you’ve ever been to a hāngī, you’ll know what a good time it is. The scent of smoke and roasting kai blended together, the music playing in the background and the chatter and laughter of the people gathered for the feast all give it a cheerful sense of easy-going community. It’s an experience you won’t usually find in the centre of the city – but we want to change that this year.   

From Wednesday 26 June to Sunday 30 June, hāngī master Rewi Spraggon of The Māori Kitchen will be laying a hāngī on the lawn on Takutai Square in the centre of Britomart. Every morning, Rewi and his team will light the hāngi, and by lunchtime they’ll be serving up and selling delicious hāngi wraps, hāngi pies, hāngi burgers and lunchboxes with hāngī meats and vegetables.

Rewi is a true master of the art of the hāngī. He’s a chef who has his own hāngī pits at his home in Bethell’s Beach, and who collaborated with some of Auckland’s leading chefs on the TV show, Hāngi Masters. Rewi usually works with patches of earth that are a lot deeper than Takutai Square, so instead of laying a fully buried hāngi, he and his team are preparing a shallow pit and building it up with topsoil and railway sleepers.

Since it’s the middle of winter, and we know Auckland isn’t renowned for its predictable weather at the best of times, we’ll be covering the lawn in a large marquee for the duration of the celebrations, with seating underneath where people can gather.

There’ll also be live music every lunchtime featuring up-and-coming Māori musicians including Hannah Teipo, Jhasmyne, Tipene, MGN and Valance Smith.The centrepiece of the Matariki festivities will be a free evening concert from 6pm on Friday 28 June featuring a suitably stellar musical lineup: Dennis Marsh, The Koi Boys, Rob Ruha and Troy Kingi.

“We’re really looking forward to celebrating that night with the Britomart community and all its neighbours,” Spraggon says. “A free concert with good kai is the perfect way to mark the arrival of Matariki and to brighten up the longer winter nights.

Photographs by Michael Lewis.