Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that if re-elected, Labour will introduce a Matariki holiday to celebrate the Maori New Year.
National and A.C.T. – unsurprisingly – are against it. A.C.T. says the Prime Minister is unfit to govern if she believes this is a good idea. National’s Paul Goldsmith said it would need to be replacing another holiday. New Zealand First also opposed it on the grounds of “New Zealand needing more hard work”.
I completely – and vehemently – disagree. I know New Zealanders across the political spectrum who believe that we should introduce Matariki as a holiday. Aside from holding significant importance to Maori, there are as I will describe shortly, significant reasons for for non-Maori New Zealanders to get behind it. Before that, though, I want to acknowledge the work of Laura O’Connell Rapira of Action Station, and Lewis Holden who is former Chair of the New Zealand Republican Movement. Both had a significant role in making this possible.
When I was a kid, my parents used to take my brother and I to Hagley Park to watch the 21 gun salute. It would happen on the first Monday of June and be at midday, which everyone knows to be Queens Birthday, the official day of celebration of the reigning Monarch’s birthday (the actual day of her birth is in April). I think it was more for the novelty of four 105mm guns letting off blanks than for any real respect for Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II that we were taken along.
But as I grew older, I began to question the relevance of the Monarchy in New Zealand. I think this nation has grown up enough that we can reasonably have a conversation about whether or not the Monarchy is still relevant to New Zealand. Over the years since World War 2, if we look at how many other nations have gained their full political independence from Britain, and then look at at the diminishing number that are still to become a Republic (I am guessing that this will be more formally discussed when the reigning Monarch deceases), it is probably an inevitability.
On one hand there are thousands of New Zealanders who seemed genuinely excited to see Prince Harry on his recent trip, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2014. Their down to earth nature contrasts with the at times aloof nature of other senior Royals. I can appreciate the older generation which suffered so much from World Wars 1 and 2, will have a particular affinity with the Royal Family and in particular Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. When Camilla Parker-Bowles and Prince Charles visited in 2019, I think there were probably just as many people more interested in meeting the Prime Minister who was showing them around Christchurch Cathedral.
Then there are those who wish for the three day break to remain simply because it means a long weekend. All that is well and dandy but there are New Zealand events such as Matariki, the Maori New Year, which we could celebrate instead. Matariki refers to the star cluster called the Pleiades, whose appearance between late May and mid-June signals the start of the New Year. Matariki began on 2 July 2020 this year. Next year it will start on 13 July.
I also think that this could be made to tie in with school holidays in late June-early July.
But what about those of us, who whilst respecting the Monarchy, have no links whatsoever to British and identify as outright New Zealanders when we fill the census form in every five years? I am one. As far as I know all of my family as far back as the late 1800’s were born and raised in New Zealand. I am a New Zealander and this is the only country I have known. The same can be said for many other New Zealanders too.
And if we could move our annual fireworks addiction to Matariki, the Fire Service would probably welcome the reduced risk of fires for good reason.