Māori astronomer says first Matariki public holiday marks a new era for Aotearoa

A leading Māori astronomer believes grandchildren and descendants will look back on the first Matariki public holiday and say it's a moment in our national history where we came of age.

It comes as preparations and celebrations are well underway to mark the beginning of the Māori New Year. 

A six-minute immersive light show at Auckland's Stardome is illuminating the core values of Matariki by shining a spotlight on the star cluster that heralds the Māori New Year.

"Remembering who we have lost over the past 12 months. Being together, celebrating, sharing kai and then it's about sending our wishes and our dreams for the year ahead to the youngest Matariki," said Stardome CEO Victoria Travers.

"There is a beautiful soundtrack that accompanies the lights, this has been created by Dan Nathan and he's used a number of taonga pūoro and also some vocalist to name all the whetu in Matariki and it moves through to match the three phases."

This coming Friday will be the ­first national public holiday to celebrate Matariki. A Māori astronomer says it also marks a new era for Aotearoa.

"I think we have reached the point where we can say we have made a great and meaningful step towards understanding our national identity, who we are as a nation in this part of the world," said Matariki Advisory Group chairperson Dr Rangi Matamua.

He's hoping the principles that underpin Matariki will guide the new holiday.

"In the winter, just before the sun, they rise as a single cluster. As one group. That's a message to all of us here in Aotearoa that we are one people and one nation," said Dr Matamua.

It's a message that will be reflected in the first official national dawn ceremony.

Te Māngai Pāho CEO Larry Parr's been involved in organising the event that will be broadcast live from Te Papa on Friday.

"We will have a half an hour programme which is essentially an introduction to Matariki and explanation of what you are going to see, the karakia and hautapu ceremony," he said.

Panel discussions and live music will fill the five-hour programme.

"I think it's really important. Not just for Aotearoa but for indigenous people all around the world," Parr said.

A world that can watch on as we celebrate our cultural identity as a nation.