NZ second longest running Community Festival

The Kowhai Festival is a community festival, that takes place every October in and around Warkworth. It’s organised by a dedicated group of volunteers, who are maintaining a tradition since 1970, celebrating all the things that make Rodney such a great place to live, work and play – gorgeous scenery, delicious food and wine, talented artists and musicians, diverse culture, fantastic recreational opportunities and, above all, a welcoming and supportive community spirit.



We’re celebrating the ‘Golden 50th’ Kowhai Festival this year! So far the following events are confirmed to take place between 1 and 27 October 2019.


WEEK ONE: 01-06 October
Tue 1st Ceremonial Planting of Kowhai Trees
Wed 2nd Golden Day and Mobility Scooter Gymkhana
Fri 4th

Sat 5th

Sun 6th

Festival of Flowers & Praise
Fri 4th Golden Kowhai Variety Concert
Sat 5th Golden Kowhai Variety Concert
Sun 6th Historic River Excursion aboard Heritage vessel JANE GIFFORD
WEEK TWO: 07-13 October
Wed 9th – Sun 13th Ride for Hospice
Wed 9th Warkworth Heritage Walk for Children
Thur 10th Early Settlers Craft Day (part of AKL Heritage Festival)
Fri 11th Combined Service Clubs & Festival Celebration Dinner
Sat 12th & Sun 13th A Photographic Time Capsule of Warkworth’s Growth
Sat 12th Warkworth Big Band Concert
Sun 13th CELEBRATION DAY – Huge Day Out

Trolley Floats/Bands/Culture & Youth Grps

WEEK THREE: 14 – 20th October
Tue 15th Basketball “Have A Go”
Thur 17th Have A Go’ Lawn Bowls (Warkworth)
Fri 18th The Warkworth Great Debate
Sat 19th World Singing Day – North Soul Community Gospel Choir
Sat 19th WW Music Society Concert: The Troubles – Wellington Jazz Ensemble
Sat 19th River Pagent – Classic Launches and Steam Boats on the river
Sat 19th Seafarers Concert & Sea Shanties
Sat 19th Outdoor Movie  “The Greatest Showman”
Sun 20th Combined Churches Festival Service
Sun 20th Have A Go’ Lawn Bowls (Snells Beach)
Sun 20th Mahurangi River Update aboard the Jane Gifford
Sun 20th Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Parade
WEEK FOUR: 21 – 28 October
Sun 27th Mahurangi Ukelele Festival & Workshops – A Festival Finale
Sun 27th Dressage Day





  • Murray Chapman (Chair)
  • Trudy Franklin (Finance)
  • Ruth Mills (Sponsorship/Stalls)
  • Daryll McNab (Sponsorship)
  • Dianne Hopgood (Secretary)
  • Hueline Massey (Consents)
  • Steve Popham (Music)
  • Barry Houlbrooke (Kids Entertainment)
  • Karen Bower (Kids Entertainment)
  • Angela Thomas (Promotion)
  • Urs Bauer (Website/Movie Night/Stage)
  • Melanie Marnet (Social Media)
  • Shona Pickup (Volunteers)
  • Cynthia and Justin Oliver (Garden Bar)
  • Gary Martin (Dog Show)
  • Peter Bishop (Traffic)
  • David Parker (50th / Walk & Cruise)


By Ken Fearnley

(published as letter to the editor in Mahurangi Matters)

The festival was really the brainchild of Jack Keys; Jack was a very modest man and would never have claimed to be the inventor.

Jack was the driving force, the energy and the creator of the festival. Back in 1970 almost anything done around Warkworth was done by the three main service clubs: Lions, Rotary and Jaycee. Jaycee’s was the most active of the three service clubs, its very nature – young men aged between 18 years and 40 years – ensured the energy required for its many projects. Jack came to me, a member of Jaycee in mid 1970, with the Kowhai Festival idea. He knew that if Jaycee would support the idea, then the other clubs would follow suit.

Jaycee’s got behind the festival with great enthusiasm. A Kowhai Festival committee was formed, its members made up of the three service clubs. I was voted chairman and Jack, representing Rotary, was secretary. It was decided to have a week of fun. We had no money, but didn’t see that as a problem as each event would be self funded or provided by its promoter. My favourite event was the Old Time Music Hall, each of the artists came from the local community, the Town Hall was packed out, beer served and there was much laughter to accompany it. One act has stuck in my memory. The artist was Gordon Cummings, the local Traffic Officer.

Gordon strode up to the microphone and began to sing. The hall went silent as each person there was enthralled by his wonderful singing voice. When he finished the applause nearly brought the roof down. The festival’s beginning took many hours of dedicated activity from those on the committee and the many clubs, organisations and individuals involved. It is wonderful to see the result of those who dedicated so much time and effort to get it off the ground, develop into something that gives so many a great deal of pleasure.

Huge Day Out Programme 2015
Huge Day Out Programme 2016
Huge Day Out Programme 2017
Huge Day Out Programme 2018


Click on the below photo collage to get to the Kowhai Festival gallery on our Facebook page: