A new public holiday to celebrate Māori new year Matariki was announced today, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying it's time for the nation to "recognise te ao Māori".
Matariki is a cluster of stars which usually rises in June or July in the middle of winter and represents the beginning of a new year according to the Māori lunar calendar, known as Maramataka.
The public holiday date is set to change every year, similar to how we celebrate Easter.
It is celebrated differently throughout Aotearoa New Zealand among ngā iwi Māori, traditionally a time for reflection, ceremonies, and events that welcome a promise of the new year.
Dr Rangi Matamua says the chosen date isn't an urge for all iwi to celebrate it on that particular date and to go against their traditions, but a time for us as a nation to acknowledge Matariki.
"I'm really excited," he says, however, "feeling the weight of responsibility".
"It's not every day you have the opportunity to influence a public holiday.
"It's been nearly 50 years since we've had something like this, since Te Tiriti o Waitangi."
Matamua says Matariki should at some point be part of the Aotearoa NZ history curriculum which is also set to start next year.
"It's not political."
"It's a celebration remembering those who have passed, a chance to plan for the future, and acknowledgement of our environmental surroundings."
The push for Matariki to become a public holiday followed a petition containing more than 35,000 signatures which was strongly campaigned by Action Station's Laura O'Connell Rapira.
In the petition she wrote: "If Matariki were made a permanent public holiday, it would provide communities with an opportunity to learn about the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar), connect with the elements and honour those who have passed away.
"A public holiday would foster understanding and celebration of Māori knowledge and wisdom and invite us to slow down our busy lives and share kai with the people we love."
The petition was delivered last year in July.
A new Matariki Advisory Group will oversee the nationwide celebration and includes Professor Rangiānehu Matamua (chair), Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, Rereata Makiha, Victoria Campbell, Dr Pauline Harris, Dr Ruakere Hond, and Jack Thatcher.
Dr Matamua says he plans to spend the next Matariki feasting with his whānau.
What is Matariki?
Matariki consists of nine stars, although many iwi will record more or even less.
They go by the names of:
All stars carry different significance to the Māori culture, often urging us to practise gratitude and to look forward to our new year aspirations.
This also includes but is not limited to: practising gratitude for the people around us, the people who have passed and how they have impacted our lives, the environment and how we can nurture it, the oceans and rivers, animals and marine life, food and harvests, and other natural elements of the world.