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Whakatau ~ Welcome

Join our official welcome ceremony for all students and staff.

Our whakatau ceremonies – held in Feb/March and July/Aug at our City, Woolston, Manawa and Timaru campuses - are a uniquely Māori way to welcome new and returning students and staff. The whakatau marks the formal commencement of the journey, bookending graduation which marks the end of the journey.

What is a whakatau?

A whakatau is a form of welcome ceremony similar to a pōwhiri, but less formal and more flexible. It’s used in many different contexts and can be adapted to suit many types of occasion.

The aspects that are common in both forms of welcome are the tikanga (values and principles) that underpin and drive them. The two key values are:

  • manaakitanga – the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others
  • whakawhanaungatanga – the process of establishing relationships

Why do we have a whakatau and not a powhiri?

As we don’t have a marae at Ara, it’s appropriate that we adopt the whakatau process for our formal and informal welcome ceremonies. This allows us to shape our kawa (welcome protocols) to uphold the underlying tikanga (values and principles) and create the greatest opportunity for all to learn from the process.

What is our kawa?

At Ara we uphold the kawa of Ngāi Tāhu (pāeka) and always look to ensure that our first language is Māori.

Pāeke is when all local speakers (hosts) speak first, before handing over to the visiting speakers to respond. Once our guests have concluded their speech and song, one of our speakers may then also stand (depending on the audience) to explain in English what our speaker has said. This ensures as many people as possible understand what’s been said, which helps put our guests at ease.


At the conclusion of each speaker’s address, we encourage the singing of waiata (song) to support the sentiments expressed in the speech. We also encourage manuhiri (guests) to respond it te reo Māori, but we acknowledge and celebrate the use of all languages/native tongues.

The waiata ‘Te Aroha’ (which can be sung in all marae and whakatau or powhiri settings) is sung to support the spokesperson for new staff and students.

The hongi

Following the speeches, manuhiri guests are invited to come forward and hongi (press noses). This is initiated by shaking hands. The hongi is a traditional form of greeting used by several Polynesian cultures. It acknowledges the very beginnings of humankind when, according to Polynesian traditions, Tāne formed the first woman Hine-ahu-one from the fertile soils of kura-waka by breathing life into her through the pressing of noses. The hongi is therefore an intimate expression of coming together.

The role of food

The final act of the whakatau is to share kai (food). This is an essential part of the more formal pōwhiri process as it lifts any tapu (sacred, sacrosanct) aspects that have been part of the preceding formalities. We include it in our whakatau too as the sharing of kai is a time-honoured way to ‘break the ice’ and begin new relationships.

Order of proceedings:
  1. Karanga – call to enter
  2. Whaikōrero – speeches from home side
  3. Whaikōrero – speeches from guests
  4. Whakamārama – Explanation
  5. Mihi – welcome from General Manager
  6. Hongi – pressing of noses and shaking hands
  7. Kai - refreshments

Dates for 2024 whakatau

Semester 2

Madras campus
24 July 2024, 11am at Whareora

Timaru campus
31 July 2024, 11am at Gym

Woolston campus
7 August 2024, 11am at Student Services Building

Manawa campus
12 August 2024, 9am at Manawa Foyer, Ground Floor