Harvey pushes for Matariki to be public holiday

By Kelly Dennett

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey thinks Matariki, or Maori New Year, should be a new public holiday in July, but others, including the Prime Minister, disagree.

In his report to the Waitakere City Council's meeting tonight, Mr Harvey seeks a recommendation that council's Te Taumata Runanga urge the Government to make Matariki a stand-alone public holiday.

"I have long been a supporter of the Matariki revival," Mr Harvey says. "This is an event that only New Zealand can celebrate. It's our very own. It is a festival born of our unique heritage, our culture, our land. It is more 'us' than our June public holiday, the Queen's Birthday."

He said Waitangi Day was a serious occasion and it would be good to have a light-hearted day that was unique to New Zealand.

Mr Harvey suggested moving the Queen's Birthday holiday to allow for a Matariki holiday in early June.

"I think it's a ripper ... It's the middle of winter. Let's have a good time, get a bit drunk maybe, let off some fireworks, beat the French, you know, do all that kind of thing," he told Newstalk ZB yesterday.

His call follows a speech by Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples last week in which he announced the Maori Party had drafted a bill to make Matariki a public holiday.

Matariki refers to the re-emergence of the new moon which coincides with the rise of the Pleiades star cluster in New Zealand skies.

The official day of the Maori new year is today but arts group Toi Whenua has organised 70 celebratory events in Auckland over the next month, including an art presentation at the Civic Centre yesterday.

Toi Whenua spokesperson Rewi Spraggon said the Maori New Year was a more relatable public holiday to New Zealanders than the Queen's Birthday.

However, the idea has some detractors, notably the Prime Minister John Key who does not think it is a goer.

"I can't say I have given any great thought to the matter but it's probably a no," he said.

"What about the ninth of August? It's my birthday."

Mr Key joked that he would ask Treasury to do some work on it but did not think it would help the economy.

The Employees and Manufacturers Association has also dismissed the idea. The idea could not be taken seriously because of the pressure it places on local businesses, said the association's advisory services manager David Lowe.

"These endless calls for employers to simply pay pay pay when there is no productivity ... and we wonder why we can't be as successful as Australia," he said.

Mr Lowe calculated the cost to be more than $272 million, based on the average worker earning $24.91 per hour, over an eight-hour day.

- NZ Herald

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