Replacing Queen's Birthday weekend

Queen's birthday weekend is slowly turning into something else. The actual day doesn't coincide with anyone's actual birthday or commemorate any actual event. Neither is it celebrated on the same day by any other 15 commonwealth realms. The only reason it is held on the first Sunday in June is because in 1908 it was moved to June to take advantage of better summer weather in the UK. This year it will happen on June 14th in the UK.

Some royalists stage an annual dinner but to most New Zealanders is little more than a long weekend at the start of winter. Last year Waterfront Auckland staged a 'Best of British' event on Queen's Wharf. This year they have re-themed it as Queen's Birthday on Queen's Wharf and made a conscious effort to include Irish cultural events as well. Their event is not about just about the UK. It celebrates all the cultures and languages of the entire British Isles including the Republic of Ireland. It is still only small but one day it may compliment larger cultural festivals like Diwali and Chinese New Year.

The Queen's Birthday Honours will of course be announced on Monday but the Queen has no say in who is awarded them. The weekend is clearly no longer about New Zealand's links to the British Monarch. It is simply a marker of winter in the southern hemisphere.

It seems likely that once New Zealand achieves its own head of state, Queen's birthday weekend will be replaced or renamed as an event. The two leading contenders for a winter weekend or public holiday are Matariki and the Winter Solstice (on June 22nd). This might hinder the marketing of Queen's Wharf but it is unlikely to put a dent in Waterfront Auckland's plans to promote it self as a leading venue for civic events.

What happens to Queen's Birthday is not central to the issue of having an independent head of state but it is one of the smaller decisions to be made as we make the transition. Whatever happens it is hard to imagine New Zealanders giving up the chance for a long weekend. It may be that events in Auckland will grow and spread in popularity and that the first Sunday in June will simply transform itself into larger celebration of our European heritage.

If Matariki becomes a public holiday it may well add one more to the annual calender. If it Either development would be yet another reason to celebrate life in New Zealand.