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Asia Minute: A Whale of a Story for Maori New Year in New Zealand

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Fireworks are always part of July 4th activities in the United States, but they’re also a key part of other celebrations around the world. That’s true in New Zealand, where some holiday fireworks planned for this weekend have been postponed for an unusual reason.

This story begins with “Matariki” — the Maori New Year, and also the name for a grouping of stars that Westerners may know as the Pleiades.

That cluster of stars becomes visible in New Zealand and the rest of the southern hemisphere in their winter months – which is now.

This year the new moon appeared on June 15th, but celebrations stretch on for weeks — with various events in different parts of the country. Seasonal traditions include family gatherings – reflecting on the past and showing respect for the land.

A more recent tradition includes fireworks, but this year there’s a complication in the national capital. Wellington had been planning a massive fireworks event for this weekend called “The Sky Show.”

But a rare southern right whale was sighted in Wellington Harbor earlier this week. The whale has stuck around, and city officials are concerned.

The City Council discussed it, the Department of Conservation weighed in and on Friday, acting Mayor Jill Day announced the fireworks will be postponed for a week…at least.

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Southern Right Whale #FreeWelly

She said the scientific consensus was that the fireworks were unlikely to harm the whale, but could cause it to act unpredictably.

Now there’s an online contest to name the whale in Wellington Harbor. One of the leading contenders: “Free Welly.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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