By Cass Marrett
The government has announced Matariki will be celebrated as a new public holiday for the first time on June 24 next year.
The annual appearance of the Matariki star cluster (also known as Pleiades) in New Zealand marks the beginning of a new year for Māori.
The holiday date will shift slightly each year to coincide with variations in the timing the cluster appears, just like how Easter shifts, but will likely fall on a Monday or Friday.
“Matariki will be a distinctly New Zealand holiday; a time for reflection and celebration, and our first public holiday that recognises Te Ao Māori,” says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“It will also break up the lag between public holidays that currently exists between Queen’s Birthday in early June and Labour Day in late October.”
Matariki will be amended into the Holidays Act later this year and is the first public holiday to be added to the calendar in almost 50 years.
The Matariki Advisory Group have been asked to determine dates for the Matariki public holiday for the next 30 years. The group is made up of recognised experts in Te Ao Māori and mātauranga (knowledge) associated with Matariki and Maramataka.
The group will also provide advice on how the date should be celebrated and “to support the development of resources to educate the public on Matariki and the celebrations,” says Māori Crown Relations Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis.
Professor Rangiānehu Matamua, chair of the Matariki Advisory Group says it’s important to acknowledge iwi across the country mark the Māori New Year in different ways and that the holiday should acknowledge those regional differences.