Rau rangatira mā,
Tēnei ngā mihi māhana,
A māua ko Janine.
Nau mai, haere mai,
Ki te Whare Kāwana ki Tāmaki Makaurau,
Ki konei tātou whakanui i ngā kaupapa o Matariki - te Tau Hou Māori.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.
Janine and I extend warm greetings to you all, and welcome you to Government House, Auckland, for today’s celebration of Matariki - the Māori New Year.
I specifically acknowledge Penny Hulse, Deputy Mayor of Auckland; Lady Beverley Reeves, Sir Stephen and Lady Margaret Tindall, Dame Georgina Kirby and Dame June Mariu - tēnā koutou katoa;
I extend a special welcome to those of you who have attended today’s citizenship ceremony, and became New Zealand’s newest citizens.
It is a most appropriate time to become New Zealand’s newest citizens, because we are about to celebrate Matariki. Matariki is a time for reflection about what has been, and a time for optimism and celebration for what can be.
“Ka puta Matariki ka rere Whanui. Ko te tohu o te tau e! – Matariki reappears, Whanui starts its flight. It is the sign of the new year”.
When stars of Matariki - the tiny eyes - rise on the north-east horizon, just before dawn, and trace the path of the rising sun, it is a signal for Matariki, the Māori New Year, celebrations to begin. It also coincides with Maruaroa o Takurua - the Winter solstice, the shortest day, in the southern hemisphere when the Sun begins its journey south.
The seven stars of Matariki – the Pleiades or Seven Sisters in the Taurus constellation - are well-known throughout the Pacific – Mata-ali’i in Samoa, Makahiki in Hawaii and Matari’i in Tahiti. Throughout history, they have acted as an important beacon for ocean navigators and for determining our seasons. In that sense, Matariki defines how we live in the southern hemisphere, particularly in the South Pacific, and connects us to our kith and kin in the wider Pacific. Its rising signals the transition to a new beginning. Cognisant of our past as we look ahead to the bounty of Spring and the warmth of Summer.
Like many traditions, Matariki has its roots in the seasons and in the traditional knowledge that people needed to survive and flourish – such as knowing the best time to grow and harvest crops, when to hunt and fish, and how to store food through the cold months.
For Māori, Matariki was traditionally both a time to remember those who had passed away during the previous year, and a time to rejoice. In a wider sense, it is a time to look back on the things that are important to us, and to look forward to the future with renewed confidence, hope and ambition. Matariki is a time for whanau and a time to celebrate new beginnings.
Earlier today, we hosted a citizenship ceremony here at Government House where seven families from seven countries became New Zealand’s newest citizens. Each person was handed their certificate of citizenship, and each person was given a Tī Koukā, a New Zealand cabbage tree. The Tī Koukā tree symbolises establishing new roots - a new beginning. It is also known for its resilience and ability to survive in most conditions – a quality which doesn’t go astray for plants and people!
Whether we are descended from people who made the long journey across the seas or are recent arrivals by jet, from all points on the globe, New Zealanders have been drawn to come here and seek a better life for themselves and their families. Matariki is part of the unique fabric of Aotearoa – New Zealand.
Matariki is being embraced by more and more people every year, in New Zealand. At the same time, it is evolving to reflect the times we live in, while retaining its core messages.
It seems that New Zealanders are taking Matariki all over the globe. Wherever we see it growing, it evokes this country to homesick New Zealanders.
For many people born in the northern hemisphere, a mid-winter celebration is the norm. New Zealanders are responding to the opportunity to celebrate this tradition in a uniquely New Zealand way.
It’s a chance to celebrate the things which make life worth living – the company our family and friends, and our communities. Matariki’s point of difference is that the celebrations just keep on going through the month.
Auckland provides a wonderful example. Aucklanders are overwhelmed with choice this year when it comes to activities which reflect the Matariki traditions of singing and dancing, reflection and learning. From a quick survey of the Matariki Festival website there are kapa haka performances, kites are being flown, there are exhibitions, poetry readings, shows at the planetarium, concerts, tree plantings, hangi, dance, drama, weaving and carving workshops, and short films.
Earlier, I said that Matariki is a time of optimism and hope for the future. For people whose homelands have been beset by war, famine or unrest, New Zealand has represented a safe, peaceful haven for themselves and their families. For others, it represents new opportunities to explore.
So as we celebrate Matariki, I suggest that we should all work to make sure Matariki’s spirit of heritage, family and whanaungatanga, goodwill - manakitanga, and mariu or optimism extends beyond this month and into the rest of the year. For our part, and in keeping with the Matariki tradition of sharing bounty from the food storehouse, Government House has a jar of home-made preserves for you to take home tonight.
Na reira, “Matariki whetu ki te Rangi, Tāngata ora ki te Whenua - Matariki star in the Sky, Humankind’s well-being on Earth.”
On that note I wish you all the very best for our New Year. Kia ora huihui tātou katoa, and please enjoy the Matariki hospitality of Government House.