Matariki will become a public holiday if Labour is re-elected.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the policy announcement during a visit to Tamaki Māori Village in Rotorua on Monday, where she met with Rotorua tourism leaders. Ardern said she had heard the calls to make Matariki a public holiday and the time had come.
"What sets us apart is when we talk about what makes us different. Both as regionally, but also as a nation, what makes Aotearoa unique?
"We've not always, as a nation, been particularly good at celebrating or identifying what makes us unique. We've worked hard to turn that around."
Examples of that were establishing the portfolio of Māori/Crown Relations, "embedding New Zealand history in schools", and erecting a statue of Dame Whina Cooper, she said.
"We celebrate Christmas in the middle of summer … Easter, other holidays which don't bear much connection, uniquely, to New Zealand."
She said there had "long been a call" to acknowledge Matariki as a unique moment in the New Zealand lunar calendar.
"It is a moment in time … that is for remembrance, it is for celebrating the present and planning for the future.
"If you were to ask me what we as a nation need now, in the midst of a very difficult time, more than anything, I would say, it would be an excuse to acknowledge what has been, to celebrate our present and plan for our future, in the way that Matariki does.
"If we are honoured to be re-elected we will make Matariki a public holiday in New Zealand."
She said it would be a holiday in its own right, rather than replacing an existing one and would fall on a Monday or Friday.
It would begin in 2022, and be implemented by law, she said.
Matariki's exact dates would be mapped out with the help of experts "several years in advance".
"It will not just be one designated day though, we want to honour what Matariki is by marking it as close to when it should be marked based on the lunar calendar … much like Easter moves around."
"Resource and material" would be created to support Matariki being a time to learn about its significance in te ao Māori, she said.
It was also a moment to showcase what was unique to Aotearoa New Zealand, and for New Zealanders to use that time in the middle of winter to "explore [places in their] own backyard" such as Rotorua.
Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis said a new holiday would help out the domestic tourism and hospitality sectors as New Zealanders plan midwinter getaways.
He said it would also be marketable to international tourists in years to come.
"Celebrating Matariki every year will give Māori a chance to share our unique traditions, our history and our stories with the rest of New Zealand.
"None of our current public holidays recognise Māori culture and tradition.
"Making Matariki a public holiday is another step forward in our partnership as a people and a further recognition of te ao Māori in our public life."
He said it would not come into force until 2022 because Covid-19 had had a significant impact on businesses and public holidays could create additional costs.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said having Matariki as a public holiday would be "phenomenal".
"It reinforces our reo rua, our bilingual city. Matariki's always meant a lot to us."
She said it would have a "huge" impact on tourism in Rotorua.
"It's about telling our stories, about our culture, our place and our people, so it's great."
New Zealand has 11 public holidays including regional anniversaries.
In the OECD, 18 countries have more public holidays than New Zealand, and 12 have fewer.
The last public holiday introduced was Waitangi Day, nearly 50 years ago.
Ardern is expected to visit Tauranga tomorrow.