6 Jul 2018

Labour's Māori caucus considers Matariki public holiday

7:57 pm on 6 July 2018

Could a public holiday for Matariki soon be written in the stars and into law?

Matariki is the name for the cluster of stars known as the Pleiades. When it rises in the north-eastern skies in late May or early June, it signals to Māori that the New Year will begin.

Matariki is the name for the cluster of stars known as the Pleiades. When it rises in the north-eastern skies in late May or early June, it signals to Māori that the New Year will begin. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Filip Lolić

A proposal to make Matariki a national holiday is being weighed up by the Labour Party's Māori caucus - and if the bill gains widespread support within the party it could be introduced as a private member's bill.

If you look out into night sky from tonight, the nine stars of the Matariki constellation should be shining brightly.

The celebration of Matariki or the Māori New Year has grown in popularity in recent years.

Last month, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester made calls to replace Queen's Birthday with a Matariki public holiday.

Labour Party Māori caucus chair Willie Jackson said the issue was put on the agenda last week by Labour MP Paul Eagle.

"There's general support for Matariki absolutely but whether it should be a public holiday or not is still being debated but there's a lot of support for that at the moment."

However, the ramifications for employers and the cost of making Matariki into a public holiday needed to be taken into account, Mr Jackson said.

"Wearing my employment portfolio hat, the numbers might not stack up in that area but that doesn't mean we still can't celebrate Matariki."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said it was exciting to be considering Matariki as a holiday and she wanted to hear what the public thought.

"Matariki is ours, because it celebrates the Māori mātauranga knowledge of the universe and of the cosmos, it talks about the stars and seasons."

One of the difficulties in setting up a public holiday would be locking in a day to hold it, Ms Davidson said.

"The first thing that struck me is I wonder when [or] what part of Matariki, it's a season that's celebrated over one to two months."

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has convened a Holidays Act Task Force and said that a Matariki public holiday would be a good issue for them to consider.

In 2009, a bill seeking to establish Matariki as a public holiday by former Māori Party MP Rahui Katene failed to pass its first reading.

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