Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Milestone Matariki marks NZ as a modern Pacific nation

In just over two months Aotearoa New Zealand will, for the first time, officially commemorate Matariki with a public holiday.

Legislation to create the annual public holiday, acknowledging the rise of the Matariki star cluster and marking the Māori New Year, has passed its third reading in Parliament.  

“This is a historic moment for all of us,” Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan said. “It will be the first national holiday to specifically recognise and celebrate mātauranga Māori.

“Unlike National and Act the Government believes New Zealanders deserve a new public holiday, but not at the expense of another such as Labour Day.

“Matariki is not about replacing an existing public holiday. Rather it provides us with a unique, new opportunity to embrace our distinctive national identity and helps to establish our place as a modern Pacific nation.”

The Minister said Matariki was a time of unity, renewal, celebration, and hope.

“With the challenges we have all faced in recent times, it allows us to come together with whānau and friends to pause, reflect and look optimistically to the future,” she said.

“Research shows there are many benefits to public holidays, with business representatives themselves noting Matariki would give a much-needed mid-year boost to the hospitality and tourism sectors, both of which have done it pretty tough over the past two years.

“And we all know holidays contribute to employee well-being by reducing stress, helping to prevent burn-out and promote work-life balance.”

The three major principles underpinning traditional Matariki celebrations are

  • Remembrance: honouring those who have passed on, since the last rising of Matariki;
  • Celebrating the present: gathering together with family and friends; and
  • Looking to the future: looking forward to the promise of a new year.

“So, whether it’s connecting with loved ones and community, taking time to reflect, or caring for our environment, this is a day for all New Zealanders,” Ms Allan said.

Te Kāhui o Matariki Public Holiday Bill has been drafted in both te reo Māori and English and is only Aotearoa New Zealand’s fifth piece of dual language legislation.

The Matariki public holiday will always fall on a Friday and will shift slightly each year to align with the maramataka (Māori stellar-lunar calendar).

“Iwi and Māori have a key role to play in helping us to learn about and celebrate Matariki in a way that suits each region and community. Plans are underway for a range of nationwide events to support us to celebrate Matariki across the country.”

“With Te Kāhui o Matariki Public Holiday Bill shortly expected to become law, I would like to acknowledge the invaluable guidance of the Matariki Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Rangiānehu Matamua. Their advice and deep knowledge of Matariki has been crucial to the creation of the Matariki public holiday.

“Having this holiday will help us come together to embrace our evolving national identity and celebrate our distinct culture,” Minister Allan said.

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