One year on from the 2019 Whakaari eruption, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa with support from Māori Television will remember the lives lost and acknowledge the efforts of many during the tragedy.

Special iwi commemorations will be held on December 9 in Whakatāne at Te Mānuka Tutahi Marae and will observe the exact moment of the eruption at 2.11pm on 9 December 2019.

This remembrance service will be held under COVID-19 Level 2 protocols, reducing the number of guests to ensure the continued safety of all.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Tumuaki (Chairman) Joe Harawira said the decision to limit numbers had been difficult given the healing needed for many. The safety of survivors and injured, families and kaumatua as well as the wider community, however, had to be paramount.

“We knew that safety at this time would limit the number of people who could physically attend. But we also needed to protect those who remain without compromise,” he said.

“First and foremost, the gathering Whakaari – He Rā Whakamaumaharatanga is for the individuals and families most affected by the tragedy. We have also extended invitations to certain government and consular representatives, together with delegates of groups and organisations who were involved in the emergency response.”

Mr Harawira said Ngāti Awa wanted to ensure that local, national and international communities could still observe December 9 with them.

As a result, New Zealand’s indigenous public broadcaster, Māori Television, will broadcast the commemorations live across its multiple platforms, television and online.

Māori Television’s Tāhuhu Rangapū, Shane Taurima, said it was a sobering privilege and responsibility.

“We hope our broadcast will give many at home and across the world the opportunity to remember in their own way. It may be in the privacy of their homes, at work, as a gathering or as an individual. No matter where whānau or loved ones are, they can be part of this unique observance with Ngāti Awa and with Aotearoa, New Zealand.”

The Whakatāne District Council is also helping to facilitate public commemorations at Mātaatua Reserve from 11.30am with National Primary School Kapa Haka Winners, Te Kura o Te Pāroa and Ngāti Awa Taikura.

We encourage anyone attending to bring their own refreshments and to note that this commemoration is a family-friendly event.

Māori Television’s live broadcast of the remembrance service at Te Mānuka Tutahi Marae in Whakatāne will be from 1.00pm to 2.30pm. It will be simulcast live to the Mataatua Reserve big screen or can be viewed at:

The broadcast can also be viewed on Freeview Ch5 and Sky Ch19. Ngāti Awa plan to host a larger and more inclusive event at a future date when international borders are open and affected overseas families will be have the ability to attend.