Festival history

Eat Drink Play launched successfully in 2021 and was designed to help celebrate the Capital’s renowned hospitality scene, to get the city back on its feet and dancing – and particularly to support the hospitality industry which struggled under the weight of COVID-19 restrictions. Over two years, the festival has successfully drawn Wellington’s festival enthusiasts back to the city, presenting them with over 250 fun-filled offerings across over 100 of Wellington’s most popular venues.

This year, Eat Drink Play has the honour of running alongside Matariki – the Māori New Year. After consultation with mana whenua (Te Ātiawa) and other iwi representatives (Taranaki Whānui, Wellington Tenths Trust, Palmerston North Māori Reserve Trust), a consensus was made that the festival, steeped in manaakitanga (hospitality) and kotahitanga (togetherness), aligned with Matariki values.

Matariki symbolises reflection on the past, celebration of the present, and preparation for the future. During the two-week festival, Eat Drink Play will unite people from all backgrounds, displaying a strong sense of manaakitanga that is an intrinsic part of who we are as Kiwis.

“We’re honoured to be a part of this special event that runs alongside and pays homage to the Māori new year, Matariki is a time to gather with whānau to share kai, drinks and entertainment regardless of your heritage or background.

We are believers that Matariki values can be embraced and displayed regardless of your cultural heritage. We’re not asking businesses to make their offering Māori, we’re encouraging them to show off their own culture and ways of bringing family and friends together.”

– Paul Retimanu, Vice President of Hospitality New Zealand