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By Laura Smith, Local Democracy Reporter

Last night’s Matariki drone show was an emotional experience for some of the thousands who huddled under the glow at the edge of Lake Rotorua on the eve of Aotearoa’s national indigenous holiday today.

The Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival is hosting the first ever matauranga Māori story told with 160 drones over the Rotorua Lake last night and tonight.

The show is created by Te Arawa artists Cian Elyse White and Mataia Keepa, who were helped to tell the story by Rangitiaria Tibble and James Webster.


In both te reo Māori and English, the show tells the stories of environmental markers connected to the star cluster.

Lynmore Primary School deputy principal Lisa Groot went with a group of tamariki from the school.

The teachers had spent time together remembering those who had died in the past year, and so the display hit deep.

“The waka picks the stars up on the way, seeing it in the drone show made us quite emotional.

‘So simple to understand’
“It was so simple for everyone to understand.”

She said the group had wanted to join up for the event.

“We wanted to finish our night together, it was a beautiful way to do it.”

Young and old enjoyed the Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival light show last night. Image: LDR/Laura Smith

Frances Wharerahi said to be part of the Matariki festivities gave the children te ao Māori experiences alongside whānau.

The show was appreciated by a wide audience, and Wharerahi said as she looked around at who was watching and there were old and young standing with “people from all parts of the world”.

A statement from the charitable trust said it believed that while the drone show was a risk for a reasonably new trust, it had paid off.

A Matariki drone. Image: LDR/Laura Smith

“Arts is an essential service. Arts deserves investment.

‘Tough time for people’
“It’s a tough time for people at the moment with the current state of inflation and the economic climate, however, events that deliver on social impact and the uplift of communities that can be brought together under a positive premise are important to our livelihood.

“These events sustain us and give our future generations something to aspire towards.”

The display was planned for last night and tonight. Image: LDR/Laura Smith

Rotorua Trust is among the major funders of at least at $10,000, and in-kind partners helping to promote, volunteer or support include Bay Trust, Te Kuirau Marae, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Rotorua Lakes Council.

Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival was founded in 2019 and aimed to create a platform for Rotorua arts talent.

The charitable trust is made up of local community arts and business leaders.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air. Published as a collaboration.

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