One step closer to Matariki potentially becoming a public holiday

By Jessica Tyson

A petition carrying 30,000 signatures will be submitted to Parliament today asking for Matariki to be made a public holiday.

ActionStation spokesperson Laura O’Connell Rapira, of Te Āti Awa, is leading the petition.

“One of the reasons I think it would be really wonderful to observe Matariki as a public holiday is because it’s asking us to align ourselves with the stars and the moon and with the elements as opposed to thinking that we are people who can decide when things should happen,” Rapira says.

Since 2017 Rapira has campaigned for a nationwide educational strategy targeted toward adults to ensure Māori history, including He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of Independence) and Te Tiriti o Waitangi is taught.

“While we think it’s really awesome that the government has made moves to ensure that children are learning about these things, we know it’s a missed opportunity if adults and elders aren’t learning about these things too," she says.

“So as part of that, we’re looking for more of our significant dates to be recognised as public holidays because that will allow people to wānanga on these things.”

Majority of New Zealanders in support

A poll crowdfunded by ActionStation revealed the majority of people in New Zealand want Matariki to be a public holiday. The poll involved 1000 demographically representative New Zealanders and 63 per cent of them were in support.

“There was especially strong support among young people, among Māori of course and also among Asian New Zealanders who also observe the lunar calendar.”

In May, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government was considering more public holidays to encourage domestic tourism following the impact of Covid-19.

“With Matariki coming up we thought we’d be able to generate a lot of public support and  we could make a strong case for a Matariki holiday in 2021 and that’s what’s happened.”

Stages of the petition

Rapira says there are three stages of the submission including the launch when ActionStation promoted the petition with the help of influencers and national news agencies; as well as the delivery to parliament happening today.

The third is the oral submission, “where you get the opportunity to present your case to a group of MPs that are usually from all of the different parties from Parliament to say this is why Matariki should be a public holiday.”

The campaign has also worked to educate people about what Matariki is with the help of experts, Māori astronomy professor Dr Rangi Matamua, te reo Māori advocate Stacey Morrison and journalist and photographer Qiane Matata-sipu.

“We hosted a free webinar with those three to talk about Matariki and to talk about what a public holiday could look like,” Rapira says.

The webinar has been viewed over 10,000 times.

“So there’s a real hunger there, a real yearning for connecting with the maramataka, connecting with Matariki and what it means. And I think the more people connect with it the stronger they’ll become as advocates for this kaupapa.”

The petition will be delivered to Labour MP Kiritapu Allan today.