Catholic institutions support Matariki Public Holiday Bill

Wikipedia - Matariki

Three Catholic institutions – Wellington archdiocese’s Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission, Challenge 2000 and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand have presented submissions to parliament supporting the proposed Matariki Public Holiday Bill.

“As Indigenous people we need to take back and understand what time looks like for us. How do we observe the seasons, how do we observe the land, our ocean, and our sky, and from there, how do we create solutions?” asks Mina Pomare Peita, Principal, Te Kura Taumata o Panguru in the preface to Caritas’s submission.

Pope Francis’s tacit support for the Bill is evident in his 2015 exhortation Laudato Si’:

“There is a need to respect the rights of peoples and cultures … Nor can the notion of the quality of life be imposed from without, for quality of life must be understood within the world of symbols and customs proper to each human group.”

All three submissions acknowledge the Matariki festival, its significance to Māori and the Catholic Church in New Zealand’s obligation to protect Māori culture.

Matariki is a significant time within the Māori calendar, to acknowledge the past, present and future in a non-linear way, Challenge’s submission explains.

We must protect this tradition, as was promised at the Treaty of Waitangi.

Catholics have inherited a “measure of responsibility” for the verbal assurance about protecting all faiths given to Bishop Pompallier at Waitangi in 1840, the Commission confirms.

That assurance specifically included a promise to protect ritenga Māori (Māori customary rituals).

“We acknowledge and regret that assurance was not always upheld as it should have been, and that Māori religious perspectives and practices have not always been respected.

“Our country and communities are strengthened by recognising and celebrating the diverse cultural and religious traditions of all the people who live here, beginning with tangata whenua,” the Commission says.

It also confirmed it supports the Statement on Religious Diversity the Catholic bishops  endorsed last year – that New Zealand’s educational institutions, work environments and public services recognise and accommodate diverse religious beliefs and practices.

Celebrating Matariki is a natural extension of that principle.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand explains the festival is still an important aspect of Te Ao Māori.

“It’s a chance to connect with culture and whānau, an opportunity for all to learn about Matariki and relearn the Maramataka cycle (lunar month) calendar to support wellbeing.”

The Commission says local knowledge of the Maramataka cycle and place was disrupted when it was overtaken by a single calendar developed far from here for different seasons, weather patterns and cultures. It would welcome the revitalisation of traditional Māori understandings of time.

The submissions particularly asked parliament to ensure (if the Matariki Public Holiday Bill becomes law) that it will “provide greater opportunity and participation for collective rest and restoration, and protect vulnerable workers.”

Matariki signals the Māori New Year. It is a time of renewal and celebration in Aotearoa New Zealand that begins with the rising of the Matariki star cluster.

The festival is unique to this country and celebrating it can enable all New Zealanders to reconnect with each other and the land, the submissions say.


  • Archdiocese of Wellington Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission
  • Challenge 2000
  • Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Image: Matariki – Wikipedia
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