Waatea News Column: As a Pakeha, the negativity around Matariki saddens me


My tongue is too leaden for the beauty of it. I mangle english with enough repetition to know that any attempt at communication outside my primary language will be an insult to that culture.

My beloved daughter however has been in a Māori immersion school since she started and her fluency in Te Reo brings joy to me and makes me feel more like a New Zealander than any other single thing.

That is why listening to the negativity around making Matariki a Public Holiday was so deeply saddening.

This isn’t an economic issue, this isn’t a business issue, it’s a New Zealand issue.

I won’t point out that we have less public holidays than comparable countries and I won’t point out that extended weekends benefit the economy because it’s wrong to defend this gift on either of those grounds.

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To celebrate the beauty of Matariki for all is a means for us to grow culturally, spiritually and collectively at a time when those bonds of solidarity are more essential than ever before.

If you can not see the treasure that celebrating Matariki is, I feel genuine pity for you.

This is a moment of real sharing and cultural entwinement without the appropriation.

We will be a stronger, better people for this public holiday.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. Yes its sad how negative people can be about something so positive as MATARIKI. Its also a pity the same level of kindness when it comes to Covid isn’t applied on our roads. The bad driving habits and anti social behaviour of many NZers is appalling.

  2. There is a wonderful synchronicity in the news that Aotearoa will also be opening not just a new Dark Sky Reserve, but one that is likely to be the world’s largest. Largest Dark Sky Reserve in the World

    This follows the Wai-iti Dark Sky Park announced in July, as well as our two Dark Sky Sanctuaries – Aotea / Great Barrier Island and Stewart Island / Rakiura, and the Dark Sky Reserve, Aoraki Mackenzie.

    As we celebrate Matariki we will be looking to the night skies and becoming more familiar with the stars above us. We are likely to gain a much deeper understanding and appreciation of our place in the universe.

    • From the Dark Sky Project :

      Nā te pō, ko te ao, ko te ao mārama
      From the darkest depths of the night we become enlightened

      At Dark Sky Project, formerly Earth & Sky, we connect manuhiri (visitors) to our night skies,
      igniting a lifelong passion for dark sky preservation and what lies above.

      Nau mai, Haere mai

  3. I scored 78% on a te reo quiz this morning. No formal training. Osmosis works. The more we hear and read it in everyday life, the better. I must get better at body parts in te reo. What is Maori for ‘Achilles heel’?

  4. Agree it is a great thing to celebrate Matariki.
    I worked in Hong Kong for a long time and thought it was great they had so many public holidays (17), as they celebrated both Chinese and Western traditions.

    In this regard then New Zealand is backward in not having any holiday associated with Maori traditions. In fact it is completely unique in not having a holiday in line with the founding stock of the country.

    In New Zealand we have only 9 public holidays, so I think a day for Matariki is great, and we could do with even more public holidays.

    • Mark – I lived in the UK a long time and loved the wonderful story book winter Christmases; I miss them – New Zealand Christmas just doesn’t feel right. Vienna and Budapest and parts of Germany, are magical.

      A mid-winter celebration is a benison for the psyche, wonderfully uplifting, and no-one needs pots of dosh to enjoy the public festivities and the glitz and good will.

      Matariki adds that extra dimension of marking a beautiful occasion, of new beginnings, and hope, and right here in our own skies – and carries a spirituality which the good old Queen’s Birthday and Labour Day do not.
      We are lucky to have it, and those unwilling to embrace our uniqueness here, are too tiresome to bother about. They may well change, in due course…

  5. I would love to have Matariki as a national public holiday.
    I believe that some Maori tribes recognise Matariki on different dates according to custom, but surely everyone could come to some agreement on one official day.
    It wouldn’t mean that you can’t celebrate it on other days – for instance Easter is made up of two distinct days (death and resurrection of Christ) but there are other periods before and after (eg. Lent) that are recognised by different Christian groups in different ways.
    Matariki is just as much a religious festival as the Christian Easter or the Jewish Passover. We have (or are supposed to have) freedom of religion in this country so we should practise what we preach.
    The beauty of Matariki is that one can be an adherent of any other religion and yet still recognise it for its spirituality and ability to bring different people together.
    And it is not unusual for humans to see their own hopes, fears and desires in the skies. Humans have been doing this for hundreds of thousands of years.
    The most notable recent example was the millions (billions?) of people all around the world who wanted to watch the sun rise on the first day of the new millennium.
    So bring it on.
    Those who dismiss it as “just another excuse for a holiday” are likely to be the same cultural philistines who indulge in excess alcohol over Christamas and New Year’s holidays.

  6. Te Papa Matariki site link: Te Papa, Matariki

    Matariki: The Māori New Year, Matariki: Te Tau Hou Māori

    What is Matariki? “A time of renewal and celebration that begins with the rising of the Matariki star cluster.”
    According to the Maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), the reappearance of Matariki brings the old lunar year to a close and marks the beginning of the new year. Hence, Matariki is associated with the Māori New Year.

    There are many sections, it is really worth checking out if you haven’t already done so.

  7. I am an older parkeha and was delighted to see that Matariki was to celebrated then up comes the Maori Party with their claims to change the names of NZ towns and millions to be spent on the language and signs . This is at the same time Maori and Pacifica are living in cold damp homes and the children are missing school through illness. Time they got their priorities right

  8. NZ has 11 holidays a year, the world average is 11 so we are very average.
    Matariki why not but in lieu of not in addition to as NZ is already incredibly unproductive and high cost, to add another day would only make that worse.

    • Well if we need to, we could lose the Queen’s Birthday as a holiday?
      I think it’s the closest on the calendar to Matariki, too.

  9. I’m in favour of cancelling Christmas and Easter, and establishing commemorations appropriate to this part of the world. Both Christmas and Easter are fake, Christmas being the winter solstice (Stonehenge and all that) and nothing to do with Chris. In the Southern hemisphere it is celebrated 6 months out of kilter with reality. Easter is a revamped version of the pagan awakening of nature festivities, and is also celebrated 6 months out of kilter with reality.

    Both Christmas and Easter have been grossly commercialised almost to the point of losing what little connexion they had with feelings of family or neighbourliness.

    Matariki, on the other hand, is celebrated at the right time of the year -when the Sun stops ‘dying’ and is ‘reborn’.

    All that said, we can be sure that the cultural blinkers that most people wear will prevent celebration of the right things, and will ensure all the wrongs things continue to be celebrated.

    I wonder whether we will be subjected to gigantic inflatable Father Christmases this year, or whether the implosion of the economy will terminate that particular weird aberration.

  10. You must feel better Bomber after reading some beautiful comments on our need for Matariki. We’re fortunate to read what Kheala thinks about it.

    Just reading your headlines made me want to put you into another portal! I belong to a site ‘Neighbourly”. They are running a poll on whether to have Matarki. The responses from all over A/NZ were overwhelmingly for Matariki. Only a tiny few thought it would cost too much for business. How poor in spirit those cash obssessed folk are. We must look up, not down to trivia.

    • Add to my comment; Oscar Wilde referred to those limited by their greed as those who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing

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