Ensuring New Zealanders can celebrate Matariki together

We’ve delivered on our commitment to make Matariki a public holiday. It’s a chance for all New Zealanders to celebrate mātauranga Māori, and enjoy a mid-winter holiday with family and friends.

As New Zealanders, we are proud of who we are, what we stand for, and the way we weave together different worlds and cultures to create our unique national identity.

Te ao Māori plays a large part in defining who we are as a nation. It also sets us apart from the rest of the world, as te ao Māori belongs only here in Aotearoa. That’s why we’re proud to have delivered on our commitment to make Matariki a public holiday.

Matariki heralds the start of the Māori New Year and has become a time of celebration not just for Māori, but for many people across Aotearoa. By making Matariki a public holiday, we’re ensuring that all New Zealanders can celebrate this special mid-winter moment.

This is the country’s first public holiday to recognise and celebrate mātauranga Māori, and will build greater national understanding and value of Māori language, culture and heritage.

The new Matariki holiday will also provide a real boost to Kiwi businesses, especially our domestic tourism and hospitality sectors, as New Zealanders plan mid-winter getaways.

We also believe that Matariki is an excellent opportunity for us to showcase our history and culture internationally. As we take the next steps in our COVID recovery and begin welcoming back international tourists, Matariki is another chance for us to share Aotearoa’s unique offerings with the world.

Matariki is a distinctly New Zealand moment – and it will make for a distinctly New Zealand holiday where we can come together to reflect, celebrate and plan for the future.

Our Government celebrates and values te ao Māori, and the Māori-Crown relationship. Making Matariki a public holiday is another step forward in our partnership as a people and a further recognition of te ao Māori in our public life.

A little more on Matariki

Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. It rises in midwinter and for many Māori, it heralds the start of a new year.

Matariki is traditionally about three key things:

  • Remembering and honouring those who we have lost since the last rising of Matariki
  • Celebrating the present and gathering to give thanks for what we have
  • Looking to the future and to the promise of a new year.

Matariki is an abbreviation of ‘Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea (The eyes of the god Tāwhirimātea) and refers to a large cluster of stars, also known as Pleiades. According to Māori tradition, the god of the wind, Tāwhirimātea, was so angry when his siblings separated their parents, Ranginui the sky father and Papatūānuku the earth mother, that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.

The stars

Matariki is the brightest star in the cluster, but it’s not the only one. Although there are differing views on the exact number of stars within Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea, according to Dr Mātāmua, a leading Māori cultural astronomy academic, there are nine:

  • Waitī is associated with freshwater and water creatures
  • Waitā is associated with food harvested from the sea
  • Waipunarangi is associated with the rain
  • Tupuānuku is associated with food from the ground
  • Tupuārangi is associated with food found in the tops of the trees
  • Ururangi is associated with nature and the winds
  • Pōhutukawa connects Matariki to those who have passed
  • Hiwa-i-te-rangi, the wishing star that we send our dreams and desires to.

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