New Zealand

Government moves to fund Matariki celebrations

Local councils urged to apply for new round of infrastructure grants

The NZ government is stepping in to support local communities in building up tourism facilities through a new round of funding with a special focus on the first ever Matariki (Māori new year)  public holiday commemoration.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has called on local councils across the country to to seek grants through the next round of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund which this year, he said, will have a special emphasis on physical infrastructure to support Aotearoa’s unique new mid-winter public holiday marking Matariki on June 24.

“Tourism is hugely important to the economy. We need quality infrastructure and facilities to enjoy our country. This funding aims to protect and enhance our reputation for offering quality experiences as we get ready to open borders for visitors,” the minister said.

Associate Tourism Minister, Peeni Henare said given Matariki will be the first public holiday that recognises Te Ao Māori this year’s funding round will have a special emphasis on physical infrastructure to support Aotearoa’s unique new mid-winter public holiday marking Matariki.

“I encourage local councils to put real thought into the infrastructure they want as part of a growing focus on the significance of Matariki. I hope to see them being creative with their applications for funds.

“Ideas could involve redeveloping council reserves to include safe stargazing areas with low-impact lighting and shelters. It might see upgraded walkways and interpretive signs around important food-gathering sites for local iwi, like wetlands, historic gardens, forests, rivers and the ocean.”

Applications are open to all councils until March 28.

The importance of Mataraki to the Māori

In Māori culture, Matariki is both the name of the Pleiades star cluster   and of the celebration of its first rising in late June or early July and marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar.

Matariki was usually celebrated during the last quarter of the moon of the lunar month Pipiri (around June, the ceremony involving viewing the individual stars for forecasts of the year to come, mourning the deceased of the past year, and making an offering of food to replenish the stars.

After the celebration of Matariki declined during the 20th century, it underwent a revival in the early 1990s. Matariki was designated an official public holiday to be celebrated for the first time in 2022.

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