Matariki could replace Queen's birthday - Paul Eagle

By Talisa Kupenga

Labour MP Paul Eagle is leading the charge to have Matariki recognised as a public holiday and it could be possible given the review of the Holidays Act.

Matariki could bump the Queen's Birthday from its public holiday pedestal.

Eagle says "I've taken a proposal to the Māori Caucus and we've looked at whether we replace Queen's Birthday weekend or whether we replace another holiday or create a new one."

New Zealand has ten public holidays a year.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has actioned a review of the Holidays Act and considerations around Matariki could be incorporated into that.

Eagle says "the proposal needs to be put together and joined in with that process.  [I’m] not sure [when that would happen] but I'm hopeful that we can at least reflect the public goodwill around a new public holiday for Matariki and that gets considered as part of any process." 

For the first time Matariki celebrations were held in place of Guy Fawkes fireworks in Wellington at the weekend.

But what do other MPs think?

National’s Alfred Ngaro says, "For Matariki to replace Guy Fawkes, I'd support something like that not sure about Queen's Birthday because it has history to it."

Youth Minister Peeni Henare is all for it.

“The Chinese celebrate their New Year, Matariki is New Zealand's New Year."

Act leader David Seymour is not a fan of creating a new public holiday and says annual leave could be used instead to celebrate Matariki.

“What’s that got to do with the price of fish at the moment?" was the response from Acting PM Winston Peters, who appeared more receptive back in June, saying he would “put it to the people of this country”.

Eagle says, "I'm hoping the Māori Caucus looks at that within the next month, signs that off in a couple of weeks and then that can go to the party for a wider conversation."

Labour's Māori Caucus support the idea in principle.

Recommendations by the Holidays Act Task force are due mid 2019.