New Zealand’s Matariki public holiday explained

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Aotearoa New Zealand will have an additional national celebration this winter, with the introduction of a Matariki public holiday. It’s the 12th public holiday in New Zealand’s working year, and an important addition to the calendar as Aotearoa celebrates mātauranga Māori.

It’s crucial for accountants, bookkeepers and outsourced payroll providers to understand the importance of Matariki and ensure that it’s factored into their calendars when running payroll for clients. Here’s what you need to know about Te Kāhui o Matariki…

What is Matariki and why is it celebrated?

Matariki takes its name from the Maori name for a cluster of seven stars, called ‘Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea’ (‘The Eyes of the God Tāwhirimātea’). The cluster is also known in other parts of the world as the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, Makli’i or Subaru. 

When the Matariki star cluster becomes visible to New Zealand in mid-winter, it marks the start of the Māori Lunar Calendar. Celebrating the start of the Māori New Year is what makes up the Matariki celebrations and it’s an important time in Te Ao Māori. There are three specific values that are central to Matariki:

  • Remember the past - it’s a time to honour the people we have lost.
  • Celebrate the present - it’s a time to appreciate what we have.
  • Look to the future - it’s a time to consider what the future holds.

The Matariki star cluster Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Is Matariki a public holiday?

Yes - it was officially made a public holiday in New Zealand with the passing of the Te Kāhui o Matariki Public Holiday Bill on 12 April 2022. While Matariki has been celebrated for a very long time amongst Māori iwi and whānau, this is the first time it’s been formally marked as a national public holiday in Aotearoa. To recognise Matariki as the first national holiday specifically recognising mātauranga Māori, the legislation was drafted in both te reo Māori and English.

The first Matariki national holiday will be on 24 June 2022. It won’t be the same date each year, but is expected to vary with the Māori lunar calendar. Generally this falls between June and July each year. You can see the full list of dates up until 2052 here.

How is Matariki celebrated?

Every iwi marks Matariki differently, although everything is underpinned by those three principles of remembrance, celebration and looking to the future. Generally it’s a time to get together with loved ones, whether that’s sharing kai, telling stories of whānau who have passed away, or having a kōrero about plans for the year ahead. 

Find out more about the principles of Matariki here:

There are also plans for events across Aotearoa, including a weekend event in the Bay of Islands and a festival of lights in Christchurch.

How to celebrate Matariki at work

First and foremost, employers will need to ensure they factor the Matariki holiday in as they would any public holiday. This includes both you and your clients giving employees a paid day off if it’s an otherwise working day, so it’s a good idea to ensure that a leave management process is in place. There are also stipulations around pay on public holidays, should they have to work regardless. For more information, check out Employment New Zealand’s guidelines

Outside of the holiday itself, there are plenty of fun ways that accountancy and bookkeeping firms can encourage their own team (and their clients!) to engage with the Matariki celebrations. Prompt a discussion with your staff about how they’ll celebrate the holiday, or arrange a hui to celebrate recent wins and set growth goals for the year ahead. Maybe you could arrange delivery of a hāngī to share during lunchtime.

If you feel confident in your competency and, importantly, are consulting the right people and sources, incorporate more te reo Māori into communications. Start with sharing how to wish ‘Happy Matariki’ in te reo, which is, ‘Ngā mihi o Matariki, te tau hou Māori’.

Ensuring compliance with KeyPay

As a payroll outsourcing provider or firm offering payroll services, it’s really important to ensure that you’re factoring Matariki into the coming months, as well as the years ahead. Still, incorporating holidays into leave and payroll for clients can be a challenge. That’s where KeyPay helps, by automatically providing an up-to-date set of public holidays and regional anniversary days that already include Matariki for your convenience. With KeyPay's automated cloud payroll software that handles leave calculations, you and your clients can spend more time focusing on celebrating the holiday and less time on manual payroll admin.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is current as at 16 June 2022, and has been prepared by KEYPAY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP (NZBN 9429048779524) and its related bodies corporate (KeyPay). The views expressed in this article are general information only, are provided in good faith to assist employers and their employees, and should not be relied on as professional advice. The Information is based on data supplied by third parties. While such data is believed to be accurate, it has not been independently verified and no warranties are given that it is complete, accurate, up to date or fit for the purpose for which it is required. KeyPay does not accept responsibility for any inaccuracy in such data and is not liable for any loss or damages arising either directly or indirectly as a result of reliance on, use of or inability to use any information provided in this article. You should undertake your own research and to seek professional advice before making any decisions or relying on the information in this article.

Jen Scouler

NZ Content Specialist

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