An ancient and sacred hautapu ceremony has marked the dawning of a new day for Aotearoa, beginning the country's inaugural Matariki public holiday - the first of its kind to be broadcast live.
Steam rose up to honour the stars of Matariki, with incantations from tohunga (experts), haka, and karanga reverberating out across Wellington’s Te Papa Tongarewa to mark the occasion.
The pre-dawn Whāngai i te Hautapu ceremony was led by tohunga and rangatira, Sir Pou Temara and the ruānuku, a group who have trained for many years with him to lead such an event.
It was part of a larger broadcast - Celebrate Matariki, Mānawatia a Matariki - simulcast on 1News, 1News online, TVNZ+ and the country’s other major broadcasters.
Speaking after the hautapu ceremony, Sir Pou spoke of the enormity of the occasion.
"The cosmos is intrinsically interwoven, with what it means to be human. All of us descend from people who used the night sky to tell time, to mark events, to navigate.
"The stars have always guided us, and served as markers and symbols for how we should live together on the earth. Matariki is one such symbol.
"This is a moment where we have pulled tightly on the threads of our nationhood, bringing us all closer together, today is a moment in time.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Ministers Kiritapu Allan and Kelvin Davis were also there.
In an address after the ceremony, Ardern said celebrating the first Matariki public holiday, with such an event, was a "historic milestone".
"Now I'm not the one on this day who is best placed to give you the history and the story of Matariki. But I can tell you how it makes me feel.
"This is now an official holiday that does not divide us by Maori ancestry or other, rather it unites us under the stars of Aotearoa.
"This waypoint in our journey, offers us the chance to come together as families but also as a nation under the stars of a bright, optimistic and hopeful Matariki. A space where there is room for us all. Mānawatia a Matariki."
Dr Rangi Mātāmua, a driving force behind the revitalisation of Matariki, and one of the tohunga involved in the hautapu, spoke with presenters of the broadcast Stacey Morrison and Matai Smith after the ceremony.
He said he was proud of what had been achieved.
“Pretty emotional actually, it's a long time coming. Pretty overwhelmed.”
He also explained the reasoning behind karakia being translated into subtitles for everyone to understand.
“It’s unusual for us to take that opportunity to translate those words because they are from our culture, but Sir Pou said something the other day on television. He said 'the survival of our culture means it has to be brought into a new space with new ideas and new approaches' and I just am so elated and proud with what we have all done today.”
Mātāmua also exchanged words with Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern immediately after the ceremony had commenced.
He said he reminded Ardern of the importance of the moment and what they had just experienced.
“I said to her, this is that moment, when we let go of the difficulties, we severe the bonds of the weight of some of the difficulties, the issues that we’ve had to deal with and we look to the promise of a bright future and she said that she was definitely going to do that.
“We just thanked each other for what I think is unprecedented, it is something that our children and grandchildren will say that is a moment where we came of age as a nation.
"This is our moment."