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Speech

Matariki Dinner with the Diplomatic Corps

Issue date: 
Friday, 24 June 2022
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, GNZM, QSO

Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Nau mai haere mai ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Kia ora tātou katoa.

It’s my great pleasure to welcome our Diplomatic Corps, your spouses, and deputies here this evening, for what I hope will be the first of many Government House Matariki celebrations.

I’d like to specifically acknowledge His Excellency Leasi Papali'i Tommy Scanlan, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, and Her Excellency Ms Nur Izzah Wong Mee Choo, High Commissioner for Malaysia, who will be speaking later this evening.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the cluster of stars we call Matariki – also known as Pleiades – is visible for most of the year, except for a month-long period in May, when it sets in the western part of our skies.

The pre-dawn, mid-winter rising of Matariki heralds the beginning of the Māori New Year, and with it, a period of remembrance, reflection, and celebration.

Throughout history, humans have turned to the heavens as a source of guidance and inspiration, and Matariki in particular holds a special place for many different cultures around the world.

I understand that in Japan the cluster is known as ‘Subaru’ or ‘coming together’; for Quechua, the cluster’s name translates as ‘the storehouse’; while in Hungarian it’s ‘Fiastyúk’, or ‘a hen with chicks’ – all names associating Matariki with a sense of communion, fertility, and the cycles of life.

An important aspect of observing Matariki for Māori is remembering those we have lost in the past year.

Matariki provides us with an opportunity to cherish the memories of loved ones, to remember that our own time in this world is both precious and brief, and reflect on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships.

The movement and pattern of the stars has long been embedded in te ao Māori – the Māori worldview – our systems of belief, and our understanding of the universe.

Polynesian explorers used the stars to navigate waka across the Pacific to Aotearoa – an almost unimaginable feat of courage, skill, and conviction.

Once settled in Aotearoa, the stars guided our practices of planting and harvesting. They aided us in our hunting and our fishing. And they supported us in our prayers and celebrations.

Such a profound sense and care for our environment will be crucial in our struggle against climate change – one we must also face with a willingness to listen and to learn from one another.

As a cultural practice, Matariki nearly disappeared with the erosion of Māoritanga – Māori culture – through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was only in the early 1990s that Matariki underwent a revival – growing in popularity and support to the present day.

We still have some way to go, and I look forward to a time when Matariki is an occasion all New Zealanders feel confident and proud to celebrate.

Matariki’s importance for Māori is reflected in the many whakataukī relating to the celebration, including one I thought especially fitting for this evening: ‘Matariki hunga nui’ ­– ‘Matariki of many people.’

In the coming days, I encourage you all to look up into the early morning sky, as our ancestors did, and to see those stars with that same sense of wonder and faith.

And in doing so, I urge you to reflect on the challenges and lessons of the past year, to bring yourselves wholly into the present, with increased resolve for a future of peace, prosperity, and wellbeing for all.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Saturday, 25 June 2022

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