Māori astronomer, ‘the man behind Matariki’, wins New Zealander of the Year

Māori astronomer, ‘the man behind Matariki’, wins New Zealander of the Year

"Matariki speaks to the best parts of who we are."

Professor Rangi Mātāmua is the 2023 New Zealander of the Year/Te Pou Whakarae o Aotearoa. 

Professor Mātāmua is known as ‘the man behind Matariki’ for spearheading the campaign to recognise Matariki as a day of significance in Aotearoa, culminating in it becoming our newest public holiday. He’s also been a strong advocate for Matauranga Māori to become more commonly held in NZ. 

Te Pou Whakarae o Aotearoa is “the most prestigious national award honouring people for their contribution to the wellbeing of out country,” the NZer of the Year website states. “Proven, inspirational and passionate, these are the people that New Zealand is proud to call their own.”

Women’s Rugby World Cup winner and mental health advocate Ruby Tui, long-time Kiwi entertainers and political activists the Topp Twins, and rugby legend, mental health advocate, and Rangi’s own childhood idol, John Kirwan, were the other finalists. 

Professor Mātāmua made sure to give them all a shoutout during his acceptance speech before speaking a bit about Matariki

“Matariki gave us a four-day workweek this year,” he said (yea boiii). “And in all honesty, Matariki is a period – it’s not just one day – it’s a period.” 

“In fact, you’re meant to relax, according to the Māori calendar system, for about two and a bit months so not too sure how you’re going to wing that one, Prime Minister, but we’ll see how we go."

"Matariki speaks to the best parts of who we are,” he continued. “Those stars are celebrated around the world, from Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to the Pacific, to Polynesia to here.”

“They mark when to plant, when to harvest, when to celebrate, when to come together, when the new year is upon us and they have always been a shining light within the history of humanity and today, they shine above us to mark the growth and the change of us in a nation, where we accept we don’t need to look overseas to understand who we are as a people, and to reflect someone else’s culture.”

"We have that in spades, right here, and if we just open our minds and hearts to that, there is so much learning and benefit for all of us,” he finished. 

Congratulations professor, ngā mihi.