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Matariki and Prime Minister Ardern

Written By: - Date published: 10:16 am, June 24th, 2022 - 72 comments
Categories: election 2023, jacinda ardern, labour, uncategorized, workers' rights - Tags:

Plenty of experts will tell you about what Matariki ‘means to us’. Here’s what it means to Ardern.

Prime Minister Ardern is the set piece queen. When there are highly concentrated media moments, she and her staff are the best I’ve seen here at commanding and delivering the media cycle. Arguably too good. Whether it be one of the multiple crises that have befallen this government, appearances on Colbert, or a speech at the United Nations, she is the best of the small state leaders in the world today. Matariki is now precisely one of those set pieces.

The state funding in advertising, events, and public education programmes is having a big impact this weekend. It has extended to all public departments and by extension to the massive companies that support them. Hundreds of thousands of business team briefings this week have had solid Matariki acknowledgement and education slots. Ardern has made a new ANZAC Day and the state machinery will by necessity profile her across dozens of shining occasions. Key didn’t get close to this. Matariki is Ardern as star.

For Ardern Matariki is a political inhale moment. She reshuffled her Cabinet last week. She is gearing up her team for major legislative contests in water and in resource management. Her future has the next election starting to light the horizon. Whether this translates to a reset in public attitude to Ardern, well, maybe not this year but it will build.

Matariki is a popular and populist delivery for Ardern’s powerful Maori caucus. While there will remain a rump Euro resentment of Maori culture, Matariki is a near-perfect elision of the Undead Queens’ Birthday with something local requiring ever-deeper local knowledge. It sets Maori understanding into state permanence. It matches in time and in emphasis the major shift in the history curriculum in New Zealand education. Matariki will make resistance to the water reforms just a little harder.

It does not matter that it is a day manufactured out of nearly nothing.

It matters that Matariki redefines for Ardern how she leads us.

72 comments on “Matariki and Prime Minister Ardern ”

  1. Patricia Bremner 1

    Him indoors watched the ceremony held in Wellington. He was impressed. He said it was great and the subtitles allowed him to feel part of it. He feels in time this will be our celebration of us as a unique place with unique values. He said the PM must have been cold as it was windy.

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    "Matariki is Ardern as star"

    He whetu ia i roto i te ao Maori.

    Her achievement in securing this day of celebration has not yet been recognised at the depth it will be in coming years.

    Key buggered-up his attempt.

    Ardern shone with hers.


  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    Matariki will be a legacy indeed that grows more significant as the years pass.
    Hard to beat involving the Cosmos in a public holiday!

  4. aom 4

    "It does not matter that it is a day manufactured out of nearly nothing."

    What a sick puppy comment. Matariki hasn't suddenly appeared out of nowhere and it certainly wasn't created for political reasons. There are many cultures that celebrate Pleiades ( Matariki). Do you assume that out of political expediency, they all had a 'Jacinda bribe' moment before being recognised?

    There has been a history of advocacy for the recognition for Matariki in NZ covering at least two decades, various changes of Government and embracing more than just Maoridom. If it is offensive to have a holiday in observance, consider how offensive our other holidays may be for large sections of the community that 'suck it up' without 'sour grapes' comments like yours Advantage.

    • Robert Guyton 4.1

      "Matariki hasn't suddenly appeared out of nowhere…"

      That's true.

      The official public holiday though, did.

      I think Ad meant that.

      It's wonderful that the ancient celebration has attained the official and legal status of a public holiday.

      • Incognito 4.1.1


        • aom

          Five months before a holiday so long in the making doesn't seem to be extraordinarily short notice. Do we have to consult every thing to death so the populace can complain about stuff not being done to create political noise?

  5. Koff 5

    Agree with much of this post. JA needs some wins on home ground, so hope Matariki is one of them. The new holiday won't do anything to improve the lot of working class Maori but is a measure of New Zealand growing up as a nation with its own unique identity as a Pacific nation. I hope that the Pacific context is appreciated. Mata(r)iki (little eyes) is an Eastern Polynesian phrase for the constellation that has been used as part of the annual calendar, together with other astronomical features used in navigation for hundreds of years. Years ago, I sailed from NZ up to Papua New Guinea, pre GPS, using a sextant and the stars, planets and moon for ocean navigation. In PNG I taught Science to PNG students which included an Astronomy unit which focused on traditional use of the stars by Trobriand Islanders, who are Polyneisan in origin, but more distantly related to Maori. They call the Pleiades cluster/ Matariki "Uluwa" and use it to time the yam harvest. It was magic having a telescope on the boarding school grounds looking up at the night sky with Trobe kids and a colleague who was a Trobe science teacher with a chance to combine traditional use of the night sky together with modern Astronomy.

  6. TightyRighty 6

    After years away from commenting, this was just too much.

    If this is how Adern is going to be remembered, as opposed to all the grand promises she made to get elected, it won’t be remembered the way you’d like it to be.

    It’ll be remembered as a do-nothing prime minister leading a do-nothing government giving everyone a day off to do nothing.

    • Ad 6.1


      • New data shows New Zealand is failing on every social and economic human rights metric
      • The country is not delivering adequate rights to education, health, housing and work, based on what it could be achieving with the money available
      • When it comes to the right to food, New Zealand’s record is steadily declining
      • Māori, people with disabilities, and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds are most likely to experience human rights violations"

      Human Rights Commissioner: NZ's quality of life record 'alarming' | Stuff.co.nz

      Worth checking the full report from the Human Rights Commission.

      • aom 6.1.1

        What has this got to do with Matariki?

        Did it end up being misplaced? If so, could a moderator move it????

        • Incognito

          Ad is the moderator of/under his own Post!?

        • Ad

          No I was agreeing with the core of TR's point.

          • aom

            Why does this sound disingenuous?

            • SPC

              There is subtle difference between doing nothing and not doing enough …

              Someone claimed the government did nothing, the response was to cite a source saying the government was not doing enough.

              It’s called polishing a turd – the claim was untrue, but not without some merit.

            • roblogic

              Ad might as well blame Labour for CC, inflation, and the All Blacks losing the world cup.

              Labour has done a fuckton more than any government in ages to turn things around. Like Ad (presumably) I wish they had the balls to do more fundamental reforms. But they aren't doing nothing.

        • higherstandard

          Ad has a knack for thought provoking posts which are more than what they seem on first glance.

          This time he had to add a bit of spice in the comments section to allow things to 'kick off' as it took a while for anyone to take the bait.

      • Muttonbird 6.1.2

        There's a graph in that article called;

        Declining scorecard on the right to food

        NZ's record on providing the right to adequate nutrition has been steadily declining

        But it clearly shows, in 2017, arrest of steep decline, in fact an accelerating decline. As of 2019 the right to food was not declining at all. This shows the Ardern government has reversed the trend of the previous National government with resect to the right to food.

        • Belladonna

          Yes, I agree the figures look flat for 2018-19. However, the graph (and presumably the data behind it) don't cover 2020-22.
          I don't think anyone would be in doubt that the steep rise in food prices has severely impacted on food supply for marginalized groups and on groups who were previously OK so far as food security goes.

          Certainly the food banks are reporting both unprecedented levels of demand, and that additional demand is now coming from families with full-time employment.


          "This winter, The Salvation Army is expecting to need to help more than 50,000 New Zealanders, a significant proportion of whom are experiencing food insecurity for the first time in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Winter demand for food support expected to grow by at least 60 per cent from last year."

          [This link is from the Countdown website – but the data comes from the Sallies – so shouldn't be disbelieved on that account]

          • Muttonbird

            Ad asked us to look at the data which, in the form of that graph, is exactly what I did. It's not my fault the data stops at 2019, but up to 2019 there is a clear indication Ardern arrested the decline in food access created by the Key government. Look at the graph, ffs.

            I don't know why you would admit Labour achieved something in this space in their first term of government only to then attack Ardern with anecdotes because there is no further data available from the Human Rights Commission.

            No doubt food prices are up the wazoo right now but we're negotiating our way out of the 1 in 100 year pandemic. Weirdly that doesn't stop you framing this as the fault of one Jacinda Ardern!

            I suspect you do this because you are a right wing Tory shill masquerading as a centrist. I always get very suspicious when people declare themselves centrists while constantly posting anti-left material.

            I suspect they are comfortably smug about their social conscience, but in serious denial about the same.

            • Belladonna

              I didn't frame anything. I didn't even mention Ardern!

              Looks as though you're desperately reaching, here. And imagining comments which I've never made.

              The article (not me) is deeply critical of the current government's achievements here. I didn't even share the article, or make the initial post. I simply called you on your inaccurate framing.

              You seized on a single data point which (you hoped) supported your arguments. I provided additional information (from the Salvation Army – who are actually doing the work in the community here), to indicate that the current situation is significantly worse. Not anecdotes. Data.

              If you have additional (current from 2020-2022) data (or even anecdotes) supporting your contention that there is no 'human-rights crisis here, move right along' – then how about sharing it.

              I don't disagree that Covid shutdowns and currently inflation have had a very significant impact on the health and wellbeing of many Kiwis. Far from it.

              However, denying there is a problem, makes it impossible to work towards a solution.

              If you want to make the point that I'm right wing – then please do so with quotes and evidence.

              Your perception of all Centrists as closet Tories, says more about you, than it does about me.

              I have no interest in participating in a Flame war with you. Please address the comments I make, rather than flinging accusations about. Play the ball not the (wo)man.

              • Muttonbird

                Another sign of a closet RWNJ is using the term, "says more about you, than it does about me". Used when their argument has ran out and they have been exposed.

                You criticised me for, "seizing on a single data point", but it's not a single data point, it's a graph showing a trend which you dismissed because it didn't cover the pandemic period.

                You then created a strawman by asking me prove, "there is no human rights crisis here, move along".

                My answer to that is, get fucked no thanks.

                [Chill – Incognito]

                • Incognito

                  Mod note

                  • Muttonbird

                    Copy that. I just think it's important to challenge the duplicity of the shy right wing.

                    • Incognito

                      I 100% agree with challenging others, be they Left, Right or Centre (or non-disclosed). I observed a robust discussion between 2 engaging commenters, which is great and what TS is there for, so please don’t spoil a good thing and keep your temper & language in-check.

    • weka 6.2

      This IP address was last used repeatedly in May by a regular commenter. If that's you, please revert to that name on your next comment (we require people to use consistenc handles).

    • weka 6.3

      the previous handle using this IP is permabanned. Your handle today also was permabanned in 2014. Adding you back in again. If you think this is unfair, email using the main TS email address.

    • Descendant Of Smith 6.4

      You must have really hated John Key then.

      Don Brash: Empty promises – Why I don't rate John Key's legacy.

      On a recent TV programme, I was provoked into quoting a recent assessment of the Key/English Government by Kerry McDonald, a former director of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, and chief executive or chairman of a number of major companies. He had rated that Government at zero out of 10. On the TV programme, I said I agree with that assessment.

      He promised to close the large gap in incomes between New Zealand and Australia, and established the 2025 Taskforce to provide advice on how best to do that. He appointed me to chair that taskforce, and appointed four others to it. And then totally ignored our recommendations. The gap between New Zealand incomes and those in Australia is as big now as it was in 2008.

      Key spoke about the need to increase the export orientation of the economy, and set a target for exports of goods and services of 40 per cent of GDP, up from 30 per cent when he came to office. Today, exports are just 27 per cent of GDP, despite continued buoyancy in world markets.

      et al


    • aom 6.5

      So this Government and the Prime Minister haven't done or changed anything since being elected apart from turning a long celebrated event into a meaningful holiday?

      Just noticed that your dishonesty has been outed by weka! Interesting.

    • Mike the Lefty 6.6

      Well TightyRighty you are certainly making a big todo about nothing.

  7. Mac1 7

    As a matter of interest, the visibility of the Pleiades was used as a indicator of rain and crop management in South America as it predicted El Nino conditions.

    Here's a paper that concerns this.


  8. Stephen D 8

    It’s incredibly rare for me to agree with anything Peter Dunn writes. But this is well said.


    ”Every nation needs symbols of its nationhood. In New Zealand we presently have few of these. We lack a defined national day, opting instead for Waitangi Day because of the significance of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. We commemorate our service personnel on Anzac Day, the advent of the 40-hour working week on Labour Day, and we still retain the forelock-tugging, anachronistic holiday to mark the British Sovereign’s birthday. Of all of them, Matariki Day is the only national day we have that is free from any political or other undertone – and we must ensure it stays that way.

    Kirk’s original dream of a day each year when all New Zealanders – Māori, Pasifika, Asian or other – could come together to promote “with pride and confidence the unique gift we all possess by virtue of being New Zealanders” may yet come to fruition through Matariki Day. That would be one more welcome step on the road to our nationhood.

    “Ngā mihi o Matariki, te tau hou Māori!”

  9. Jenny how to get there 9

    Matariki; Returning Maori culture and traditions to their rightful place.

    The Himalayas has mountains, Yellowstone has geysers, the Amazon basin has rivers.

    New Zealand's rivers and mountains, and geothermal wonders, and dramatic scenery

    As beautiful and precious as they are, they are not unique. The overlay of Maori civilisation and culture over these natural wonders is what gives them their uniqueness.

    If that unique heritage was lost it would be a loss to the whole world.

    All ups to the Ardern administration for marking Maori civilisation science, astronomy and culture with a national holiday.

    • Grafton Gully 9.1

      The Maoris started off at river mouth moa hunter camps and then harvested the seashore, rivers and forests for food, stone, wood and fibre. It's the late C19 romantic tourist department stuff that your talking about with the mountains and scenery, not the kumara fields and aruhe. Fine until a southerly blows up, the tinder is out and kiore have dealt to the kumara pits. Nicely managed project though and a masterclass in media management and propaganda. Now for the hard stuff.

      • Ad 9.1.1

        One could reasonably say worse standing on the wasted vastness of the Somme, waving a little flag for ANZAC Day.

  10. Incognito 10

    Good Post!

    Key didn’t get close to this. Matariki is Ardern as star.

    Heh! Key got pretty close with his symbol legacy.

    Ardern’s Matariki speech is the familiar textbook example with the touching anecdotes. Key never managed the personal touch like Ardern because he was not authentic, IMO.


    • Patricia Bremner 10.1

      Thank you Incognito.

    • Ross 10.2

      Key never managed the personal touch like Ardern because he was not authentic

      Too funny. The PM does for authenticity what the Boston Strangler did for door to door salesmen.

      Meanwhile, Chris Hipkins "has been forced to publicly apologise over a stoush with pregnant journalist Charlotte Bellis…I understand it's taken 3 months of legal battles to get this apology made public".

      Of course, an authentic Prime Minister would have sacked Hipkins. Instead, Jacinda Ardern recently promoted him to the position of Police Minister.

      I recall the then-PM John Key saying the conduct of one of his Ministers (Dr Richard Worth) “does not befit a minister and I will not have him in my Cabinet”. If only the current PM was that principled.


      • Patricia Bremner 10.2.1

        Ross read Dirty Politics. Key principled Wow !! What a laugh.

      • Incognito 10.2.2

        Comparing Hipkins with Worth is false equivalence of the highest order and a foolish fail.

        Conflating authenticity and principled is another flagrant fail. You may want to throw in integrity too, for good measure.

  11. Heather Grimwood 11

    Matariki was certainly not manufactured out of nothing! At least fifty years ago teaching in a southern city school, I had pupils whose Maori parents took them fishing for Matariki, asking for homework so that children didn't miss out. The story was published in the school journal too, and was a well-known in schools in my experience in Auckland area as well.

  12. Mike the Lefty 12

    We have to remember that the public holiday of Matariki would not have been achieved without the Labour government. It would never have happened if National/ACT had been in power.

    National didn't even reward their wealthy Chinese backers with promises of making Chinese New Year a public holiday – cheapskates!

  13. Robert Guyton 13

    Hasn't today's discussion flowed well, without the needling and inflammatory insertion of the un-generous thoughts of what's-his-handle 🙂

  14. Stuart Munro 14

    This celebration may be a farsighted move by the PM and her Maori caucus. Although it has vastly improved in the last few years, Waitangi had ceased to be the day that brought NZ together. Now there is a uniquely NZ day once again, and this one is not ruined by the legacy of land thefts and broken promises. The stain that is the toxic legacy of Douglas and Richardson may be starting to come out, and NZ returning to its best iteration, a place where goodwill reigns – the place that moved Popper to write The Open Society and its Enemies.

  15. RedLogix 15

    On the whole a fine thing. And not a recent idea either.

    The crucial factor will be whether it becomes a unifying event for all kiwis.

  16. weka 16

    This was my fav today

  17. joe90 17

    Trawling Papers Past for references to Matariki. The earliest refer to a race horse named Matariki and a little later steamers, and rugby and matches involving clubs named Matariki.

    And then this gem.


    • Molly 17.1

      Thanks for that Joe90. Another story to add to the collection.

      (I love Papers Past. Because of my family's unusual surname spelling, I can find multiple articles for family members I have direct connections to, or clear childhood memories of. A couple of great-relatives are noted for drunken behaviour, one very pious uncle was in the paper for punching his boss on the railways after a 'heated exchange' in his youth)

      • joe90 17.1.1

        I found the family junkie. A story of addiction told in court appearances, beginning shortly after a return from the Boer war through to shortly before his death in the early 60s. His court appearances were for the crime of substance abuse and dependence that we see today, theft, vagrancy, sleeping rough in enclosed spaces etc.

        Notably, the frequent references to long term substitution, doctors script for x number of grains of morphine etc, and remands for inpatient treatment at various institutions made it clear the law was treating him as a victim of his addictions.

        And then we succumbed to moral panic and ended up with the misuse of drugs act 1975.

        • Molly

          It is interesting to read the family stories through the lens of the press.

          Found reports of my grandparent's wedding – complete with full fashion descriptions – providing a colour palette to the familiar black and white photos of that occasion.

          One of the ones that I found which I had no previous family knowledge of and strangely aligned with current conversations, is the prosecution of a great-great aunt and her daughter being prosecuted for performing abortions for un-wed women.

  18. DS 18

    I think Matariki is an excellent initiative. Not because of any culture-war considerations, but simply because the middle of winter needs something celebratory to spice it up, and this particular spice is something quintessentially New Zealand. We previously had nothing between Queens Birthday and Labour Day – that's a long time to go without a holiday.

    • Maurice 18.1

      Wiccans celebrate the Winter Solstice based upon pagan religion from thousands of years ago. The solstice is just reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.

      • Blade 18.1.1

        True- thanks to Gerald Gardner. And while based on pagan religions, many Wiccans would have you believe their religion in its present form has a unbroken lineage going back centuries. Not true.

        The same with Matariki with it's present overbearing modern take( in my opinion).

        Pity the holiday wasn't in late July; early August. That would truly have broken the year up with a good spread of holidays.

  19. Ross 19

    My son and I stand beneath the great night sky
    And gaze up in wonder
    I tell him the tale of Apollo And he says
    "Why did they ever go?"
    It may look like some empty gesture
    To go all that way just to come back
    But don't offer me a place out in cyberspace
    'Cause where in the hell's that at?

    Now that the space race is over
    It's been and it's gone and I'll never get out of my room
    Because the space race is over
    And I can't help but feel we're all just going nowhere

  20. Hunter Thompson II 20

    Setting Matariki as a public holiday is better than an expensive (and ultimately fruitless) debate on a new national flag. So I give the PM points for that.

    Now if she can ensure NZ rivers flow freely and cleanly it will be an enduring legacy of inestimable value. I doubt if the planned Three Waters scheme, with its creation of more bureaucrats, will achieve her pre-election promise.

  21. Molly 21

    The Herald has a series of five short videos on the some of the stories around Matariki.

    Worth the small amount of time to view for those interested:


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