Te Ra o Matariki Bill – Matariki Day Bill loses on first reading

Te Ra o Matariki Bill – Matariki Day Bill loses on first reading

matarikiAs ardent supporters of Matariki and seeing it become a national holiday we like you to read MP Rahui Katene’s speech in Parliament. We are disheartened to see that it did not pass its first reading but hold out hope that one day soon it will be recognised as a national holiday affirming its place as one of celebration, remembrance and renewal.

Both the National Party and the Act Party did not support the bill saying there was no need for an additional holiday. All other parties supported the bill going to select committee.

Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga
Wednesday 19 August 2009; 5.25pm

I came to the House today, with the hope that our nation had evolved to a point in which we could stand together in this House and say that a distinctly New Zealand identity is important.

I put this Bill, Te Ra o Matariki; the Matariki Day Bill into the ballot, because it reflects and resonates with so many New Zealanders. Matariki has been taken up enthusiastically, right throughout the land, as a time for coming together of family and friends; a time for festivities; for connecting all people together in the spirit of the Maori New Year. Matariki has been manifest in festivities throughout communities; and more formally with the endorsement of key Government agencies such as Te Papa Tongarewa; Te Taura Whiri i te reo Maori; and a host of district councils and local government bodies.

Matariki, at its essence, it a navigational star, to guide us in our journey forward.  The Maori Party were only too happy to put forward this Bill, in our commitment to move our nation forward.

And we want to place on record, our appreciation to the Greens, the Labour Party, and to United Future, who all had the vision in their mind, of a nation in which kotahitanga is an aspiration that we can all share.I want to thank those parties, and the speakers who have taken a stand, for your insights and your intelligence in investing in opportunities for debate.

The spirit of unity and optimism was evident in the korero that has taken place in this chamber today and a fortnight ago. It was an enormous disappointment, that neither the National Party nor the Act Party could back this Bill.  It is a sad day when we are divided in this Parliament, about something as fundamental as our cultural identity. The way some speakers approached this issue it seemed as if Matariki was becoming bigger than Ben Hur. I want to bring back the debate to why we wanted to support and promote the concept of Matariki as the time in which we celebrate the unique place in which we live.

There are no days in the official calendar in which we have a stand alone holiday which celebrates the distinctly New Zealand identity that is ours.   The Matariki Day would do that. In being placed in the midst of the winter period, it provides a vital breathing space, a period for revitalisation and rejuvenation during the colder season. Some of the holidays we currently have bear further scrutiny.  The Queen’s birthday is 21 April – and yet we celebrate it in June.

We have a day off on Boxing Day – a day marked by the giving of Christmas boxes to service workers in the United Kingdom. We have a day off on the day after the 1st January – I don’t know what that celebrates! And of course the traditional days to mark Christian events, or to acknowledge Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The last thing I am going to suggest is that we pit Matariki Day against any of the eleven public holidays and make a competition of which event is the most significant.

We do not want to be part of any initiative which pits Matariki against God or the Queen.  It is not a case of either/or. But I also believe the wider picture of how we celebrate public events and holidays is worthy of further debate than we have been able to achieve in the 65 minutes allocated for this issue. And the points raised that our eleven days compare poorly with other countries – Italy with 16; Japan and Spain with 14 for instance – are worth considering more.

Mr Speaker, a fortnight ago, Mr Tremain stood in this House and shared the proverb, Whakataka te hau ki te uru.  He spoke with passion about the potential those words offered: Let the red-tipped dawn come; a promise of a glorious day.

The Matariki Bill offered us that promise – a time to celebrate the coming together of a nation. We regret that two parties were unable to support the opportunity to bring the people together, to celebrate Matariki Day. But although the die is cast, the debate is certainly not over, and we in the Maori Party will continue to speak out and speak up, about the value of a distinctly New Zealand identity.

Voting record

59 votes in support
63 votes opposed

(5) Comments

  1. Corinna

    Kia ora koutou. I loved this speech too, and I cannot see why Matariki is not already honoured with a public holiday. We have public holidays for the Northern Hemisphere New Year (two days in fact) which we celebrate, the European or Pakeha New Year, why do we not have at least two days for our Maori New Year? Personally I think it's yet another example of the systemic racism still endemic through NZ society :( - from a Pakeha, but one with a heart and enough of a brain to recognise inequality when I see it ...!

  2. grant mclean

    Enough with these northern hemisphere holidays. I loved this speech it makes so much sense eh.Don't give up this great quest and thanx for your efforts.

  3. Potaua

    Ironic that the National Government say NO to honouring Matariki and fail to recognise a local tradition yet commit to a $2b joint space venture with Australia. What, is it that the country loses money with a new public holiday that you're afraid of or is it just because it's Maori...like Wira?

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