Labour pledges to create new public holiday during Matariki

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Labour is pledging to give New Zealanders a new public holiday during Matariki - the time of the year a cluster of stars signals the beginning of the Māori New Year.

Should it win the upcoming election, leader Jacinda Ardern said an expert group would decide on the date, but the public holiday would fall either on a Monday or Friday within Matariki.

Matariki changes dates each year, but generally rises in June or July and goes over a three week period. 

"Matariki will be a distinctly New Zealand holiday and a time for reflection, celebration and to look to the future as we take increasing pride in our unique national identity," Ardern said. 

If re-elected, Labour would introduce the public holiday from 2022 in order to give businesses preparation time. 

"We don’t have many statutory holidays compared to other OECD countries and it would be good to break up the long run through winter," Ardern said. 

Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis said another holiday would help the tourism and hospitality sectors "and will also allow the tourism industry to market Matariki globally to international travellers as a uniquely New Zealand winter experience in years to come".

"None of our current public holidays recognise Māori culture and tradition," David said.

"Making Matariki a public holiday is another step forward in our partnership as a people and a further recognition of te ao Māori in our public life."

"It is important to acknowledge that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on businesses and public holidays can create additional costs, which is why it wouldn’t come into force until 2022."

The Green Party has already promised to recognise Matariki as a public holiday

Stuart Smith of National told Stuff in July a holiday for Matariki would "provide communities with an opportunity to further learn about our cultural heritage" - but it was essential it would need to replace a current public holiday. 

In May, Ardern told RNZ she was interested in hearing different views from businesses.

In 2009, Rahui Katene of the Māori Party's Te Rā o Matariki Bill/Matariki Day Bill was drawn from the ballot in Parliament, but failed in its first reading. 

At the time, former National leader Simon Bridges said, "We do not require a public holiday to mark Matariki, or, more broadly, to raise awareness of Māori custom and tradition issues in our nation".

"It is simply not correct to say, in principle, that in order to celebrate something and to believe in something, even passionately, a holiday is required. If that was the case, we would have holidays on many other occasions as well."

Earlier this year, a petition was launched in support of making the Māori New Year a public holiday , and as of midday today it has 34,841 signatures. 

New Zealand has 11 public holidays, with Waitangi Day the last to be introduced, in 1974.