Jacinda Ardern wants to make Matariki a public holiday from 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's listened to Kiwis and will make Matariki a public holiday from 2022 if re-elected.

"As I've travelled around New Zealand I've heard the calls for Matariki to become a public holiday - its time has come," the Labour Party leader says in a statement on Monday.

"It will also be a confidence boost that many sectors need right now." 

Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleaides star cluster, and its annual appearance mid-winter signals the start of Māori New Year.

Traditionally, it represents a time of renewal and a time to acknowledge the people who have passed in the year gone by.

"Matariki will be a distinctly New Zealand holiday and a time for reflection, celebration and to look to the future as we take increasing pride in our unique national identity," Ardern says.

New Zealand currently has 11 public holidays, counting regional anniversaries as one.

This puts us in the low-to-middle range for public holidays amongst OECD countries, with 18 countries having more than us, and 12 fewer.

"We don't have many statutory holidays compared to other OECD countries and it would be good to break up the long run through winter," Ardern adds.

Jacinda Ardern wants to make Matariki a public holiday from 2022
Photo credit: File

The call to make Matariki a public holiday has been backed by the tourism industry, as it offers Kiwis another long weekend to travel and support small businesses affected by the ongoing pandemic.

Supporters also say it would show the increasing acceptance and importance of Māori culture to New Zealand.

"A new holiday will help out our domestic tourism and hospitality sector as New Zealanders plan mid-winter getaways and will also allow the tourism industry to market Matariki globally to international travellers as a uniquely New Zealand winter experience in years to come," Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis says.

"Celebrating Matariki every year will give Māori a chance to share our unique traditions, our history and our stories with the rest of New Zealand.

"None of our current public holidays recognise Māori culture and tradition. Making Matariki a public holiday is another step forward in our partnership as a people and a further recognition of te ao Māori in our public life."

When will it take place?

Due to the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses, Davis notes the holiday wouldn't come into force until 2022.

"COVID-19 has had a significant impact on businesses and 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," a fact-sheet regarding the announcement states.

Davis says a group of experts will help determine the exact date, however expects it will always fall on a Monday or a Friday.

"This phased approach will also allow the government to engage Māori about the day and develop educational resources and public events to help us as a country celebrate Matariki," the fact-sheet adds.