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Matariki a public holiday?

Matariki was celebrated this year at the public library in Masterton. PHOTO/FILE

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The Labour Party has announced that, if elected, it would make Matariki New Zealand’s 12th public holiday in 2022. Already, it has become a prominent topic of discussion in the media.

The Matariki star cluster.

Matariki, which signals the Maori New Year, is a time of renewal and celebration, starting with the rise of the Matariki star cluster in midwinter – it is widely celebrated but is not a holiday.

Several people and institutions have welcomed the move as a step towards greater visibility and platforming of New Zealand’s indigenous culture, as opposed to that of the West [for example the Queen’s Birthday].

On the other hand, there have been criticisms that Matariki as a public holiday was electioneering from Labour, and glossed over larger issues facing Maori and Pasifika; for example, the calls from the medical community to lower the bowel cancer screening age, and the disproportionately high prison population.

The business world was another area which had split into camps over the issue, with some owners saying the costs of paying out staff for a further day was a negative. Others argued that the holiday would bring a high level of spending, as public holidays traditionally do.

Paul Southey, owner of A1 Homes Wairarapa, is a prominent Maori businessman. He’s helping to establish the Maori Business Network with several others.

“I think it’s a good thing, and it’s supportive from a cultural awareness point of view,” Southey said.

“Getting people to talk about Matariki and what it means, and about the timing of it, is a very good thing.

“It’s great to celebrate something pertinent to New Zealanders, and something that is our own.

“You’ve got to interweave it into our culture, and us as New Zealanders – this is ours, we’ve got it, and there’s a story that goes with it, and it’s an important story to tell.”

Southey said that, from an employer’s point of view, Matariki could replace another holiday, but that it would be important to preserve the timing for cultural reasons, and to have the public holiday happen at the Maori New Year.

Becks Sayer, chairwoman of Business Wairarapa, the chamber of commerce, said statutory holidays represented costs for businesses, which was the basis of the argument for Matariki replacing another holiday.

“It would mean that if you had a business that was required to be open anyway [for example, a supermarket] any staff that work would get time in lieu.

“For some businesses the employee would get time-and-a-half, plus a day in lieu.

“So, if it’s going to be another separate holiday it would effectively cost a day’s wages for however many employees they’ve got.”

Labour’s official correspondence said that the new winter public holiday would fall at some point during the Matariki period, with an expectation that it would always happen on either a Monday or a Friday.


  1. Well if the proposal is ‘oppossed’ to Queens Birthday It eont have a hope. But I expect it was just a poor choice of wording.

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