Māori astronomers will be using the stars and moon phases to set a different date for the Matariki public holiday each year. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised to make Matariki a public holiday if re-elected, she announced the first celebration will be on 24 June, 2022
The rising of Matariki, or the star cluster known as Pleiades, marks the Māori New Year, which falls between the end of June and beginning of July. However some iwi such as those from Taranaki celebrate Puanga, a different star constellation, as Matariki is not visible in the sky in their rohe (region).
Bringing all the mātauranga Māori of the stars together is the Matariki Advisory Group, which has been tasked with deciding on the future dates for marking the occasion. While the date may change each year, the messages of Matariki would remain the same.
The group also includes MacDiarmid Institute Principal Investigator, astrophysicist Dr Pauline Harris.
Dr Harris said it was a privilege to discuss and bring together the different iwi knowledge of the stars.
"It's just beautiful to have those variations and nuances, not everyone has to use the same star [but] in terms of something that gives us a unified holiday, we have to choose a date that works for us... the holiday is still after the rising of Puanga and the rising of Matariki."
Harris was looking forward to marking the day by taking part in a Matariki celebration which paid tribute to what each star represents.
"Some of them represent food in the sky, or in the upper tops of the trees, some will represent the food and the land, in our seas, freshwater and so, some parts of the ritual have to do with having food from those realms or those areas and then cooking that food and letting the steam be lifted up into the sky to feed the stars.".
Hear Dr Harris speak on the challenging yet rewarding task of finding the right date for the Matariki public holiday on RadioNZ's Checkpoint..
February 4, 2021