PM hails 'first authentically Māori public holiday'

Dr Rangi Matamua welcomes Jacinda Ardern to the ceremony outside Ta Papa in Wellington. Photo: RNZ
Dr Rangi Matamua welcomes Jacinda Ardern to the ceremony outside Ta Papa in Wellington. Photo: RNZ
Matariki is a step forward towards understanding what makes us unique as a country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

The country has awoken today to its first distinctly New Zealand public holiday, Te Rā Aro ki a Matariki, with Ardern joining hundreds of others at a traditional hautapu ceremony outside Te Papa in Wellington early this morning.

The ceremony was led by renowned Māori leader Sir Pou Temara and several tohunga while the sun rose over Wellington.

Sir Pou Temara said today's Matariki celebrations throughout the country signalled the maturing of Aotearoa.

Ardern recalled announcing the holiday in Rotorua last September and the joy that greeted the news, especially among young people. She said she had witnessed several special moments this week, as people prepared for Matariki, including during her visit to Wainouimata Intermediate School to watch tamariki interpretations of its significance.

Matariki offered the chance for "a bright hopeful optimistic" future, and "a space where there is room for us all," she said.

"We are united under the same sky," the prime minister told the large crowd.

In a separate statement she said: "This is a special day not only for Aotearoa but globally as we celebrate our first authentically Māori public holiday, which has been met with overwhelming support.

"Today we take another meaningful step forward in understanding what makes us unique as a country and what holds us together as a nation."

Ardern said while many will already have established Matariki traditions, the public holiday would be a chance for others to create their own for the first time.

"That extends to Kiwis living abroad as over 20 New Zealand embassies host Matariki celebrations around the globe, giving the world a taste of our national identity.

"I thank all those iwi, hapū, whānau and mātauranga holders for giving their time, support and knowledge to ensure Matariki is shared, acknowledged and better understood - to allow us all to celebrate as a nation together," Ardern said.

Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Kelvin Davis, who also spoke at the hautapu, said Matariki was a proud illustration of mātauranga Māori or Māori knowledge that has been passed down generationally.

"Traditionally Matariki was a time where Māori would give thanks for all the blessings of the past year and reconnect with one another," Davis said.

"This is what we want for our nation - strengthening whānau bonds and community relationships and partnerships.

"From today onwards we can annually embed into our calendars a national holiday that is unique to Aotearoa and is inclusive of all of our people."

Associate Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage Kiritapu Allan said there was an appetite for the country to do things differently.

We must be up for the challenge in order to move forward in what is an exciting time for Aotearoa," Allan said.

"Especially for our children, who will not have to think twice about the significance or the meaning of Matariki as it will be entrenched into the hearts and minds of generations to come."

$15m in grants announced

The government has announced an injection of $15 million into Matariki projects.

The funding is from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which has considered infrastructure to support Matariki events for the first time.

Viewing platforms will be built at Waihi Beach and Te Tākinga Marae, in Rotorua.

Funding for the marae also includes wider facility upgrades, including signage, walkways and a Matariki-inspired entranceway.

Associate Minister of Tourism Peeni Henare hoped the funding would sow the seeds for future Matariki celebrations.

He said it will also help many New Zealanders on their journeys of discovery in Te Ao Māori world.

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