Labour pledges a Happy Matariki New Year if re-elected

updated By Te Ao - Māori News

Making Matariki New Zealand's next public holiday is now Labour Party policy.

Positive public opinion for Matariki as a public holiday has grown over the years.

If instituted, it would be New Zealand's second public holiday with a direct Māori connection, Waitangi Day being the other one.

The only other homegrown holiday is Labour Day, instituted to mark the eight-hour day championed by immigrant carpenter Samuel Parnell. The idea for an eight-hour workday came from his experience working as a tradesman in England.

Labour Day takes various forms around the world. In 1984, the USA made 'Labor Day' a federal holiday, when federal employees get a paid day off. Other countries incorporate it into their May Day (May 1) celebrations.

The case for Matariki

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces the new Labour Matariki policy - Video / Te Ao Māori News

The Labour leader explained why she chose a Matariki holiday instead of a New Zealand Wars commemoration day. She said people wanted the NZ Wars taught in schools, more than they wanted a holiday to commemorate them.

"There are things we should be moving forward with as a nation that will strengthen our identity."

She believes teaching the New Zealand Wars in schools, and celebrating Matariki as a national holiday, are part of doing that.

"Matariki, it is a holiday whose time has come," she says.

In June this year, Whakarewarewa's Peter Herewini proposed Matariki could help foster domestic tourism.

Last year in June, the supporters of making New Zealand a republic wanted to replace Queen's Birthday celebrations with Matariki, as they thought it was more Kiwi than the Queen.

Professor Linda Nikora expressed her concerns that Matariki would become a commercialised holiday, the NZ version of mid-winter Christmas. She wanted to the ancestral purposes of Matariki to be remembered if it became an official holiday.

Why now?

For Labour, making Matariki a public holiday is about making a coronvirus-proof economy.

Jacinda Ardern said some tourism operators see a 200-300% increase in business during public holidays. She acknowledged that some businesses do take a hit during holidays, which is why the Labour Party would start the holiday in 2022.

"There'll be other businesses which will find it tough. That's why we're waiting till 2022," she said.

"But I also acknowledge this isn't just a decision about the economic impact. This is about acknowledging who we are as a nation."

The Greens support the Labour move. Co-leader Marama Davidson said Matariki had both cultural and economic value.

“We look forward to implementing and celebrating Matariki Day as part of the next government, alongside Labour,” Marama Davidson said.