Matariki shouldn't be dominated by commercialisation, Western ideas once it's a public holiday - social activist

Matariki needs to be a public holiday not dominated by commercialisation and Western ideas, and instead should focus on indigenous practices and knowledge, a social activist says.

Ngā Mata o Te Ariki Tāwhirimātea, more commonly known as Matariki, rises in midwinter and signals the Māori New Year.

Traditionally, it is a time to acknowledge the dead and release their spirits to become stars. It also allows time to reflect, be thankful to the gods for the harvest, and share food with family and friends.

New Zealand will celebrate Matariki as a public holiday for the first time on June 24, 2022. The date will change to align with the maramataka - the Māori lunar calendar - and will shift annually between June and July.

Writer and social activist Qiane Matata-Sipu says when Matariki arrives each year, it shouldn't be Westernised and commercialised - and she doesn't want to see stars for sale in department stores.

"If we're going to be celebrating Matariki, we need to be celebrating the indigenous practice and the indigenous systems and indigenous knowledge," she told The Hui on Monday.

"It's an opportunity for us to learn about Te Ao Māori in a different way, for us to wānanga together, to share kai together, to learn the different ingoa of the whetū [names of the stars], so slow down. [There are] just so many other practices that we should be doing."

Matata-Sipu says we need to take note of practices like slowing down and being still - something that tūpuna gave tips for.

"We really need to take note of those things - the ingoa of the different phases we're in, the ingoa of the different phases on the maramataka," she says.

"Those are the blueprints for us to live well, and so we should be looking and listening towards those tohu and following that pathway for ways to celebrate. Definitely not commercialising and Westernising Matariki and turning it into some money-making festival celebration."

Watch the video above.

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air.