Introducing maramataka into the daily lives of whānau, including reviving the traditions of planting by the stars, is helping to guide people on their journey to better health.

Ngā Kaupeka o te Tau: Puanganui supports the revival of seasonal food practices and traditional knowledge associated with tirotiro (observation) of stars, celestial phenomena, flora and fauna and weather patterns, for whānau across Taranaki, Whanganui and Rangitīkei.

Traditions that connect people to te taiao and traditional methods of food cultivation are helping to lift the wairua of whānau, and creates space to improve their wellbeing, says project team member Ngaputiputi (Puti) Akapita.

"Our approach begins with teaching groups about ritenga (rituals) for each of the five seasons recognised in our rohe. Not only do we revive these ritenga, we also help participants to apply the knowledge into their everyday lives," says Puti.

"This helps people reconnect to observing nature, her movements and how we live with nature and the modern world together. It provides oranga tīnana through healthy food choices, oranga hinengaro through learning the methods of our tīpuna, and oranga wairua by connection with nature through ritenga."

The inspiration for programme founder Che Wilson came from his pāpā, a ‘mahi kai man'.

"Much of today's world is focused on trauma and what we've lost," says Che. "But our whānau has never lost the mātauranga for how to gather food; whether that's gardening, fishing or diving, hunting or gathering.

"While my father did not have the reo he retained and passed on the practices – the karakia and kōrero that connect us to te taiao and to each other I learnt from others, and we now share these with whānau through the wānanga," says Che.

Puti says she is seeing positive change in people who are being spiritually grounded by the acts of preparing kai and being among the environment, whilst also looking to the stars for guidance.

"I see them coming back home, coming back to their marae. We have whānau who have never been to their marae in their lifetime, or even to a wānanga. When that happens, they reconnect with themselves as a person first and then their whānau, then their whole wider whānau.

"When people come to our wānanga, often they don't know how to release the tension, the heaviness on them so we show them how they can release that heaviness by using the taiao, by using whatever is around them at the time," says Puti.

"These wānanga give attention to the knowledge people have and how that can become something great through the refocusing of intention. This focus has given attendees the confidence to lead karakia and waiata during our dawn ceremonies," says Che.

Head of Mātauranga Māori, Hauora Māori Services, Kingi Kiriona says programmes like Ngā Kaupeka promote the health benefits derived from unique Māori knowledge based on te ao Māori teachings and traditions that are passed down through the generations.

"Reviving traditions, especially around kai and tirotiro – celestial knowledge, helps connect people to whānau, their whenua, and their whakapapa. Through these connections and traditions, people feel stronger within themselves, they can build personal resilience and achieve better health outcomes," he says.