National | Celebration

Matariki: No fireworks or possums please

Astronomer Dr Rangi Matamua, who chairs an advisory group guiding the government on the creation of the inaugural Matariki public holiday, believes letting off fireworks is an inappropriate way to celebrate the Māori New Year

But he says some local bodies plan on going ahead with fireworks displays anyway.

Matamua was involved in writing recommendations to the councils, explaining that Matariki is underpinned by environmentalism and connecting to the environment.

He said his group received questions about the holiday. Some of the questions were about commercialism and Matamua said that it was a worry.

“It is a concern because you have the birth of Jesus, which becomes Santa and reindeer, the death of Jesus becomes giant rabbits and chocolate eggs. I would hate to see the Matariki possum selling something commercial.”

'Didn’t think it aligned'

In the report, Matamua and his team said fireworks add to noise pollution, light pollution, and air pollution.

“When all that stuff goes off in the air the residue and the casing for those fireworks fall back to the ground and fall back to the ocean. We didn’t think it aligned.”

Matamua said some councils have taken the advice and agreed. Still, some other councils had decided to go ahead with their fireworks celebration of the holiday.

“It’s really not our role to say 'You can’t do that'. I would like to think as we start to mature into the Matariki celebration that we think about the wider context. It’s not just fireworks we need to think about - it's the way that we care for our planet in general.”

“Why would you want to have lights going off in the sky when you’re meant to be looking at the stars?”

'Mānawatia a Matariki'

Dr. Matamua says that every year he celebrates the traditional Matariki ceremony which involves the feeding of the stars, observing their rise and doing karakia.

“This year it's going to be at Te Papa Tongarewa with a big broadcast of the ceremony on the morning of the 24th and I’ll be part of the ceremony and I’ll be celebrating there.”

Matamua said Matariki organisers are trying to promote “Mānawatia a Matariki”, which means 'Celebrate the rise of Matariki' and he hopes the catchphrase is adopted.