New public holiday: Matariki

There has been some controversy over Labour’s newest addition to the public holidays list: Matariki.

Matariki (short for Ngā mata o te ariki o Tāwhirimātea, or “the eyes of the god Tāwhirimātea”) is the Māori New Year, and the date is always set to align with the rise of its namesake, a cluster of stars that make their first appearance during midwinter. Matariki is observed by people coming together to share food, celebrate life, remember tūpuna, and tell stories. The Government also has hopes that Matariki will help to encourage domestic travel and spending through the winter season.

We believe it is a fantastic and overdue move to incorporate Matariki into our official calendar, as an acknowledgement of the importance of Matariki to Tangata Whenua, as part of our obligations to honour and uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and as a celebration of kōrero (stories) that are uniquely ours. We have obligations to uphold the revival and upkeep of Mātauranga Māori and taonga (Māori knowledge and treasure), including the tradition of Matariki.

However, it is clear that small to medium sized businesses will be knocked the hardest by the introduction of a 12th public holiday. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates Matariki would cost 534,930 businesses between $377 and $448 million. As a result, the move has been condemned by some fiscal commentators as poorly-timed and irresponsible, particularly with businesses still recovering from the impact of COVID-19.

A newly-established Matariki Advisory Group is expected to start working out the dates of the Matariki public holiday for the next 30 years in order to give businesses some certainty about when the holiday will fall each year.

The first official public holiday observing Matariki is set to fall on 24 June 2022.

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