Wellington City Council cancels Guy Fawkes and moves fireworks Sky Show to Matariki
Wellington's mayor is pulling the plug on the city's 22-year-old Guy Fawkes festival in favour of the Māori New Year festival, Matariki.
Mayor Justin Lester said Matariki ought to be a cornerstone celebration, rather than the long-running November tradition, which marked the anniversary of an attempt to blow up British parliament more than 400 years ago.
Wellington's Sky Show, which is usually held in November, is the largest annual fireworks display put on by a city council in New Zealand.
But from next year, the council will move its annual major fireworks event to the cultural festival in July.
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Earlier this year, the council committed $500,000 in its annual plan budget to making Wellington New Zealand's capital of culture, with half of that money pegged for the city's Matariki celebrations in 2018.
"I think it's anachronistic that we have Queen's Birthday and holiday at the time, yet as a community we don't really celebrate Matariki," Lester said.
"We celebrate Guy Fawkes, which is the celebration of a guy seeking to bomb the UK parliament."
The Matariki festival would initially start as a one-day event next year, but would develop into a longer festival.
Lester said plans were under way for a programme of events for the month-long event, which occurs around June and July every year.
Mana whenua and other stakeholders had been doing good work for years and now it was time for the city to show national leadership by supporting the groups and working with them to produce a city-wide Matariki celebration that all Wellingtonians can be proud of, he said.
People would still be entitled to do their own thing for Guy Fawkes.
Lester said he had canvassed councillors and had strong support, however councillor Iona Pannett said she did not agree.
The move would be risky because people may gather in public parks with their own fireworks, she said.
She supported celebrating Matariki – but not at the expense of Guy Fawkes and would like to see fireworks at both events.
"It's been a long part of our history and despite what it represents, we live in a multicultural environment and it's about celebrating traditions."
Some ratepayers would be disappointed by the mayor-led decision, she said.
The council was currently in the process of planning its budget for the next 10 years and developing a plan for Matariki celebrations was a key focus of those discussions, Lester said.
The move represented how serious the city was about making Matariki a cornerstone celebration.
"We want Wellington to lead the country in making this a major civic event."
The idea to move the event stemmed from a conversation with his deputy, Jill Day, on how to promote more Māori events in the city.
Fire Service assistant Wellington area commander Dave Key said its usual Guy Fawkes message was for people to attend a public fireworks display.
Cancelling the public display could prove problematic if more people decided to use fireworks at home.
However, in the past three years fewer people were doing Guy Fawkes at home, he said.
Taranaki Whānui chairman Wayne Mulligan said mana whenua were delighted by the city's ambition for Matariki and would work with the council to develop the programme.
"Matariki is about fire, food and whānau and it is traditionally a time to rest, reflect and share"
Deputy Mayor Jill Day was confident a winter show would still draw crowds as a Matariki fireworks show proved popular this year.
Despite being winter, families turned up to the waterfront to see the display, she said.
"The feedback we received was that the earlier time was much more family friendly. As a mother of three young children, that show me this is a much better time for this event and will help make Skyshow even better and more popular.
Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades, which rises in in mid-winter and is also a time for remembering the dead and celebrating new life.
Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said Matariki was much more relevant to New Zealand and should be celebrated.
Cancelling Guy Fawkes would upset some people but it showed progress and celebrating New Zealand rather than something archaic.
"This is about the future and a festival will benefit the city," Milford said.