Backlash to Labour's promise of Matariki holiday from 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is accused of being in "la la land" over her promise of a new Matariki holiday if re-elected.

While it might be popular with many Kiwis, it comes as unpleasant news for some businesses and the Opposition.

Announcing the proposed extra day off on Monday, the Labour leader said she has "heard the calls" from New Zealanders and "its time has come".

"It will also be a confidence boost that many sectors need right now," she said in a statement.

However the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) warns the announcement is unlikely to find favour with its business members.

Chief executive Brett O'Riley says it will be seen as another cost and the Government priority should be focused on fixing the Holidays Act.

"We need to see a simplified and streamlined process for calculating entitlements and creating efficiencies for business," O'Riley said in a statement.

"We understand the cultural argument about Matariki being considered important enough for a public holiday, but it could have been exchanged with one of the other public holidays."

Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis had argued the new holiday will help out our domestic tourism and hospitality sector as New Zealanders plan mid-winter getaways.

O'Riley disagreed with this, warning the holiday would be "unlikely to support increased tourism, which was the original argument for an extra public holiday during COVID-19 alert levels 1 and 2".

Labour itself acknowledged the "significant impact" COVID-19 has had on businesses, which is why the holiday wouldn't take effect until 2022.

"We realise that a public holiday does create additional costs for business so we are looking to phase this in and will allow for business planning and time to respond to the impacts of COVID-19," it said in a fact-sheet.

Backlash to Labour's promise of Matariki holiday from 2022
Photo credit: File

National leader Judith Collins also weighed in when asked about her views on making Matariki a public holiday on Monday.

While saying some in National thought it was a great idea, she pointed out the extra costs this could impose on businesses.

"The issue that it is another public holiday that businesses have to pay for," Collins said.

"We are seeing big businesses having to shed many staff. We are going to have a lot of holidays for people that they weren't looking for."

And ACT leader David Seymour accused Ardern of being in "la la land".

"Does she know there's an economic crisis going on?" he questioned in a statement following Labour's announcement.

"New Zealanders don't need a day off, they need Jacinda Ardern to take three years off.

"There are 70,000 more people on welfare, future generations face mountains of debt, businesses are struggling to survive, and Labour's answer is a new public holiday.

"If Labour wants Matariki to be a public holiday, it should abolish Labour Day so businesses aren't taking on more costs."

Backlash to Labour's promise of Matariki holiday from 2022
Photo credit: NASA/ESA/AURA Caltech

While the Green Party came out in support, with co-leader Marama Davidson saying it "reflects the shared values" between Labour and the Greens, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters warned that "work and sacrifice is what's required, not another holiday".

"Now is not the time, when we are in the throes of huge financial challenges, to start thinking about a holiday," Peters told Newshub.

"If you want to change the name and call it Matariki, fine, but it's a public holiday, and as I say, the only way out of this is a word that's got four letters in it: w-o-r-k.

"One time in the future, when we rebuild our economy, maybe we can think about it. I disagree with an extra public holiday at this critical, stringently-challenging economic time."