Wānaka Sun       

Do we need another public holiday?

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 08 Oct, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

When Jacinda Ardern announced a few weeks ago that if re-elected, Labour would make Matariki another public holiday, it was apparent that there would be some negative outcry.

An extra public holiday would put pressure on small businesses already affected by COVID-19, some said and blamed Ardern for being out of touch for advocating this at a time of struggle

Some saw it as a vote grab but in fact, the idea of an extra holiday had been around since May when Ardern said it was under active consideration. And there is no denying that long weekends lead to significant boosts in spending. And towns like Wanaka are the ones to benefit.

It's not like Ardern's announcement was a big surprise. It had been discussed for some time. A couple of years ago Wellington moved its Guy Fawkes fireworks night to Matariki. And this year there had been calls for the festival to be recognised as a holiday.

Matariki is the Māori name for a group of seven stars known as the Pleiades star cluster. Note, some hapū know the Matariki as nine stars (although the last two can be hard to make out with the naked eye).

Some people think of Matariki as a mother star with six daughters, and it is often referred to as the Seven Sisters.

Matariki appears in the eastern sky sometime around the shortest day of the year and is thought to determine how successful the harvested crop will be in the coming season. The brighter the stars, the more productive the crop will be.

Back in July Stuff launched a campaign "to make Matariki a public holiday from 2021." In an editorial to launch the campaign, Stuff said: "We believe it is past time to acknowledge all Matariki stands for in our national calendar officially."

Most of the opposition to Matariki becoming a holiday relates to the state of the economy and how small businesses will be affected. However, there is widespread support for the recognition of Maori beliefs behind the move.

If nothing else, why not address the economic concerns by dropping another less meaningful holiday? Queens Birthday seems the obvious one. There will be some backlash from royalists, but ultimately Matariki will come out ahead.

We are all aware of the vast gap between Queens Birthday and Labour Day. This makes for a grinding winter without a long weekend's break. Matariki would fall conveniently between late-June and mid-July- a comfortable slot to break up the winter months. And a great addition to the start of the ski season for Wānaka.

The mood for change seems clear, regardless of the outcome of the election.



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