Māori leaders in Tauranga have praised Labour's promise to make Matariki a public holiday if re-elected as a sign of changing attitudes towards Māori culture.
But there are concerns about the impact another public holiday will have on businesses, with one opposition MP says the timing of the move is "hopeless".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returned to the campaign trail yesterday, making the policy announcement in Rotorua after meeting with tourism businesses.
"As I've travelled around New Zealand I've heard the calls for Matariki to become a public holiday – its time has come," she said.
Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis said the holiday would eventually help the domestic tourism and hospitality sector, allowing the sector to market it globally.
"It is important to acknowledge that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on businesses and public holidays can create additional costs, which is why it wouldn't come into force until 2022."
Tauranga celestial navigator Jack Thatcher, who had followed Matariki for more than 30 years, said the acknowledgement of the revival of celestial knowledge meant more than he could express.
He hoped there would be no issues between iwi when deciding on the right day, because the holiday allowed everyone to celebrate as a nation.
"We should get over all the little things and realise that all of Aotearoa is acknowledging our observances in this way.
"We all live in this country and the practices belong to us all. Its a more modern world these days we have to be inclusive when we are celebrating this."
Ngāti Pūkenga kaumatua Buddy Mikaere said Matariki becoming a public holiday would be "wonderful" for the country and showed a growing interest and investment in Māori culture.
"It is such a sensible move."
He said he had noticed people really begin to embrace Māori culture and heritage over the last few years, with many Pākehā showing a keen interest.
The Matariki announcement followed Tauranga City Council's vote to introduce a Māori ward last week.
"It just shows how much more widely accepted our culture is becoming."
Bay of Plenty National MP Todd Muller thought the holiday was a "nice concept" with "hopeless timing".
"I can't believe that with the economy here in the Bay under real pressure and her big policy announcement is a new public holiday.
"It's just so disconnected with the struggles of our local small businesses who are trying to keep their doors open."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley believed the Government needed to send a consistent message to employers that keeping jobs would be easy and viable.
"The upside of the Matariki public holiday is that it will boost employees' mental wellbeing during the long winter months and encourage domestic tourism.
"But the paid day off is being funded by the business owners who employ staff, not the Government."
Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Matemoana McDonald, who represents the Mauao Māori ward, supported the move.
"While it's a celebration of new year it's also celebrating our indigeneity and it's a celebration that's specific to Aotearoa and all New Zealanders.
"I think it's important we celebrate ourselves in the scheme of things and recognise what's significant to us as a country and important."
"[Matariki is] the meaning of things, the importance of looking for our own wellbeing and way of life, recognising that for all of us. It's not specific to Māori."
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said Matariki traditionally was the season for planting. He said that was symbolic of the groundwork being done to improve partnerships with iwi.
"We can lay a strong foundation for future growth together as one people. I like the idea. I think it's something very symbolic."
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said the recognition of te ao Māori with the flow-on effects of the holiday were all positives.
"Tauranga's tourism industry would certainly benefit from Matariki being recognised as a public holiday."
She said credit card data showed spending in the coastal Bay of Plenty was seven per cent higher this Queen's Birthday weekend compared to the same holiday weekend last year.
"If Matariki was recognised as a public holiday, Tauranga could benefit from a similar boost to the city's domestic tourism."
Labour policy: Matariki public holiday
• It would be New Zealand's 12th public holiday, counting regional anniversaries as one
• It would start in 2022
• Matariki marks the start of the Māori New Year
• It's dates are usually determined by the lunar calendar, shifting each year.
• Exact dates for the holiday will be determined by Matariki experts
• It is expected to fall in winter on a Monday or Friday within Matariki
• It would be New Zealand's first new public holiday in almost 50 years