Professor Rangi Mātāmua is a Māori scholar who has revolutionised New Zealand's understanding of Māori astronomy, particularly Matariki. Now, he has a new role as chief advisor to the government on Matariki – the Māori New Year.
The newly created role sees Mātāmua ensuring authenticity in all the government's Matariki initiatives, and assisting its promotion through funding, events, resources, and knowledge.
The commercialisation of Matariki has been an area of concern for Mātāmua since the government first signalled a move to celebrate Matariki officially and as a nation.
“I'm not saying it's bad that some are using Matariki for business purposes but, for those who want to belittle Matariki and its values, they are a part of why I'm in this role,” Mātāmua says.
The inaugural Matariki public holiday was announced in 2021 to be first celebrated on June 24 this year on advice from the Matariki Advisory Group which Matamua led.
It is the country’s first public holiday that recognises te ao Māori and is a distinctly New Zealand holiday.
Matariki is a cluster of stars, also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, and observes the rising of the cluster in mid-winter marking the start of the Māori New Year. Some iwi, however, celebrate the Māori new year with the rising of other stars, such as Puanga, also known as Rigel and the brightest star of the Orion constellation.
Matamua insists he’d like to see the western and Māori calendars co-exist.
“I like the western calendar if we're living in a western world. We also have to know where we are in the Māori calendar, so we know what to do and what the environment is doing. I'm not saying get rid of the western calendar, no, we have to understand both.”