An opportunity to align with a national movement, Feast Matariki, will see Whakatāne’s Local Wild Food Challenge moved to July 2020.

Usually held in February, the food challenge and festival centres around dishes prepared from wild food gathered from the land and sea. Eat New Zealand’s Feast Matariki concept has a similar theme, dedicated to connecting people with the land of Aotearoa through food.

Whakatāne District Council Tourism and Events Manager Nicola Burgess said aligning with Feast Matariki was one of a number of reasons for the date change.

“Eat New Zealand’s Feast Matariki concept was launched this year with a number of food events taking part throughout the country. Aligning with this celebration gives us wider national reach and celebrating the wild food of our District is a perfect fit.

“One of our strategic tourism objectives is to encourage more visitors through the traditional low-seasons. Hosting events through these months would be a significant step in achieving this goal,” she said.

Getting regional New Zealand involved with Matariki food celebrations was an exciting opportunity, said Eat New Zealand Chief Executive Angela Clifford. “It’s really exciting seeing regions such as Whakatāne imagine what a regional food celebration at Matariki might look like for their community. Our original food stories should be unearthed further if we’re to understand ourselves as a food nation. Our wild food is a big part of what connects us to our land and oceans, so it’s a perfect fit. We’re looking forward to sharing the stories of this special part of New Zealand.”

The Local Wild Food Challenge will retain its format of a challenge (cooking competition) and food festival, while adding a Matariki mid-winter theme. Ms Burgess said some new elements would be added to enhance the Matariki celebration, and a summer Local Wild Food event could return for 2021.