Māori leaders have praised Labour's promise to make Matariki a public holiday if re-elected, saying it was an opportunity for people to share and embrace Māori culture.
But a Rotorua business leader has baulked at the timing of the announcement and an opposition MP says some businesses will be disappointed.
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."
New Zealand Māori Arts and Craft Institute general manager Eraia Kiel said the holiday was an opportunity to educate people on the significance of something unique to Aotearoa.
"Don't be afraid to learn and don't be afraid to ask questions and embrace the culture.
"But if we want people to truly understand the beauty of te ao Māori we just have to take them to those depths. There are certain aspects of the culture that we do keep solely for our traditional practices but the majority we can share freely."
Kiel said Māori and Pākehā needed to come together and use the strength of culture to move forward as a nation.
Te Arawa kaumatua Sir Toby Curtis said Labour should be congratulated.
"About 10 years ago or more myself and another person decided to stage the first celebration of Matariki at a national level ... and one of our hopes was that it would become a public holiday.
"This is a wonderful outcome."
He said Matariki was based on Māori experiences but also New Zealand experiences.
"It encompasses all the good things of the past as well as all the good of the future."
However, Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said while it was a worthy reason for a public holiday and should be implemented, the timing was bad.
"The timing leading into the election reads like the Labour Party are asking for businesses to pay for its re-election."
"Most businesses are fighting for survival."
"The last thing they need is to pay for another public holiday at this time, not to say it's not a good idea and should not be done in the future."
He said the decision to celebrate te ao Māori should be made across Parliament for the national good.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said two years was "a long time to wait for significant policy" and the move would have no positive impact on struggling businesses for a long time.
"For the person in Rotorua who is not sure if their business will survive, they're probably looking for policy that will help them in the here and now, not in a few years time."
He suspected many small businesses feeling the burden of increased costs would be disappointed in the decision.
"I'm sure this will be welcomed by some people, but for the 5000 New Zealanders who went on the unemployment benefit last week, I think they're probably more interested in policies that are going to create jobs," he said.
"They'll be hoping to see what the Government may announce by way of significant policy that will help fix New Zealand's economy."
Sunset Primary School principal Eden Chapman said educators had been increasingly focused on Matariki over the past 10 years as an important piece of New Zealand's cultural identity to celebrate.
"To have another holiday and more acknowledgement of the importance of Māori traditions in our county is a good thing."
He believed Rotorua schools acknowledged this importance strongly already but said anything that drew more attention to Māori identity was good for the country.
Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Te Taru White, who represents the Ōkurei Māori ward, said the announcement "astronomically makes sense".
"We're not part of the northern hemisphere, it's a southern hemisphere feature ... it was the foundation for our lunar calendar."
Ngāti Whakaue leader Monty Morrison said while it was not a new idea, it was one that would be welcomed.
"I feel very positive about it, I think it's another focus for us to celebrate our calendar, Aotearoa's calendar, in its unique way.
He said this would open up the conversation of how te ao Māori could be further celebrated and recognised.
"The more we can celebrate the diversity in our community, the better."
He said regardless of who wins the election, the recognition of the importance and celebration of Matariki should be implemented.
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."
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