Mayor Justin Lester: “it would be wonderful for New Zealand to have an Aotearoa-specific holiday around Matariki”

By Oliver Lovell

A petition to make Matariki a public holiday was launched on Parliament’s website by the organisation New Zealand Republic last week. The petition aims to get 10,000 signatures by Mataraiki next year: May 15. The petition will then be presented to the House of Representatives.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, said he thought it would be “wonderful for New Zealand to have an Aotearoa-specific holiday around Matariki”. The Wellington City Council opted to put on a large-scale fireworks display for Matariki as opposed to Guy Fawkes this year.

“Last year we [the Wellington City Council] talked a lot about the prospect and there was a lot of support for it,” Lester said. Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, said there were no plans at this stage to change the public holidays in New Zealand and introducing or replacing a public holiday would require a change to the Holidays Act.

The Holidays Act sets out New Zealand’s public holidays and Matariki is not currently one of them. Employees can, with the agreement of their employer, transfer an existing public holiday to another day. For instance, the day on which Matariki is observed.

However, Lees-Galloway said he has established a task force which will review the Holidays Act and said he “encourages further discussion” on Matariki becoming a public holiday. Lester said it was now in the hands of the government, with Lees-Galloway’s taskforce reviewing the Public Holidays Act.

“I hope it [the review of the Public Holidays Act] results in Matariki becoming a public holiday.”

In 2009, former Maori Party member of parliament Rahui Katene, presented a Matariki Day Bill to parliament which did not pass its first reading. The bill received a combined 63 ‘no’ votes from National and Act and a combined 59 ‘yes’ votes from Labour, Green, Maori, Progressive and United Future.

Matariki is a star cluster which signals the Maori New Year, the constellation is also called the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters.

New Zealand Republic campaign chairperson Lewis Holden, said “Japan marks it as the rising of Subaru – which is where the [Subaru] car company takes its name from.”