Matariki has been proposed as a new New Zealand public holiday by the Labour Party if it was to be in Government after October's election. Mike Tweed gauges local reaction.
The holiday is expected fall on a Monday or a Friday during Matariki. Matariki a star cluster which marks the Māori New Year when it rises.
Māori Party co-leader and candidate for the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, said that while the party fully supported the Matariki holiday, it would also like to see the government address the "disparities and equities" that stopped whānau's "natural growth".
"Māori Party were the first to bring this to the house, through Rahui Katene in 2009, and about two weeks later it got voted down," Ngarewa-Packer said.
"It's really nice to see acknowledgement from the government that we live in a completely different environment to Victorian England, where a lot of our public holidays come from."
Ngarewa-Packer said that "now more than ever" the country was facing "challenging times" and Covid-19 had revealed a lot of inequalities in New Zealand society.
"The challenge coming from us is; don't just start at Matariki, because Matariki is about hope, and it's about future-proofing our whānau."
Whanganui Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Sue Stuart said that the timing of the announcement was challenging in light of the stressed economic Covid-19 environment employers were finding themselves in.
"The Chamber fully acknowledge and support the importance of this holiday day, however there are other immediate economic development matters to focus on," Stewart said.
Whanganui spokesman for Amalgamated Workers Union New Zealand, Gary Dell, said from a worker perspective an extra public holiday would be "absolutely great" especially as it was one that "reflected cultural significance".
First Union central region secretary Sheryl Cadman shared Dell's views.
"We've heard employers going on about how it'll be bad for productivity, but we just don't buy that," Cadman said.
"Workers very rarely get the true gains of any productivity increases, and you only have to look at the gap between the wealthy and the poor compared to 20 years ago."
National MP for Whanganui Harete Hipango said, as National spokeswoman for Māori Crown relations, she supported a Matariki (or Puanga as is celebrated in Whanganui) day as a "distinctly New Zealand and Māori relevant event" on the country's calendar.
"However, it is not a priority policy announcement during these Covid-stricken times of hardships, where many people, families, communities and businesses are at a loss and struggling with much uncertainty," Hipango said.
Matariki was "an important and special specific Māori and New Zealand event", Hipango said, but the timing of it "right now" was not something that in her view "substantively aids, helps or gives new Zealanders and Māori communities ... to nourish and retain the ability to provide for their families keep and welfare".
"In my view, there are much more pressing priorities to address, though not diminishing the place for Matariki/Puanga as a significant marker on our calendar."
Labour candidate for Whanganui, Steph Lewis, said it was important to have a New Zealand holiday that recognised Māori traditions and culture.
"I've seen a few comments online about the impact on businesses, and that's why we're not bringing it in until 2022, so that there is time for businesses to adjust," Lewis said.
"We know that they are already facing some pretty tricky times."
"That will also allow us to talk with Māori experts, around when is the most appropriate date to celebrate Matariki."
New Zealand needed to transition to shorter working weeks and better quality of life, Green Party Candidate for Whanganui Alan Clay, said, so an additional public holiday could "only be a good thing".
"I think it's a wonderful idea, and we need to celebrate Māori culture," Clay said.
"It should be a standalone holiday, and what that does is stimulate our whole tourism industry, so it's good all round."
A Matariki public holiday was a "lovely idea", Social Credit candidate for Whanganui Heather Marion Smith said, and that New Zealand needed to maintain it's status as a "dark sky nation".
"Matariki really has a spiritual significance to Māori," Marion Smith said.