Nau mai haere mai, welcome to our Matariki newsletter.

This Friday marks New Zealand’s newest public holiday, heralding a new year in the Māori lunar calendar. A time of remembrance and celebration, Matariki also now represents one further adoption of Māori culture and language into the mainstream – but with that comes the inevitable commercialisation every public holiday brings.

As the University of Auckland’s Mike Lee argues today, the new holiday would be better treated like Anzac Day than Christmas: “For businesses looking to cash in on Matariki, there is the potential for significant blowback.”

But on the subject of celebrations, this week also marks five years since The Conversation launched in Aotearoa New Zealand. In that time, researchers from NZ universities have had more than 50 million unique views of 1,300 Conversation articles. That’s put us firmly on the local mediascape, but with a truly international reach – our stories have been read in 193 other countries.

Our authors’ work has also changed lives by putting evidence in front of policymakers. For instance, leading epidemiologist Michael Baker says writing for The Conversation helped him develop what later became NZ’s COVID-19 elimination strategy:

“During the critical days leading up to the [first] lockdown, I will never forget how writing a story for The Conversation helped me crystallise my main message … That thinking helped me develop the elimination strategy subsequently adopted by the New Zealand government.”

You can read more about our NZ authors’ impact in this short report, which we’ve produced to say thank you to all our authors and readers. And from me and my fellow editors Veronika Meduna and Debrin Foxcroft, thank you for supporting this work – we’ve got plenty more expert-led journalism heading your way soon, too.

For now though, enjoy Matariki and please tell your friends about the Conversation! Until next time, take care and mā te wā.

Finlay Macdonald

Senior Editor, New Zealand

Matariki falls during a quiet retail season – but businesses should be wary of cashing in

Mike Lee, University of Auckland

Matariki is New Zealand’s newest public holiday but businesses are being warned to tread carefully before using the celebration to lure customers.

Shovel-ready but not shovel-worthy: how COVID-19 infrastructure projects missed the opportunity to transform the way we live

Iain White, University of Waikato; Crystal Legacy, The University of Melbourne; Graham Haughton, University of Manchester

Governments embraced shovel ready projects during the pandemic as a way to stimulate the economy. But the potential for real transformation was lost in the rush to build.

A New Pacific Reset? Why NZ must prioritise climate change and labour mobility

Robert Scollay, University of Auckland

Pacific nations are increasingly setting their own agendas, meaning Australia and New Zealand are having to learn to listen.

A new farming proposal to reduce carbon emissions involves a lot of trust – and a lot of uncertainty

Ralph Sims, Massey University

The He Waka Eke Noa partnership will require farmers to embrace strategies and technologies to reduce emissions. But there are a lot of unanswered questions about how it will work in practice.

New Zealand should celebrate its remarkable prehistoric past with national fossil emblems – have your say!

Nic Rawlence, University of Otago

Australia has them, so why doesn’t New Zealand have national or regional fossil emblems? A campaign to change that kicks off today.

A major new law aims to ‘improve the health of all New Zealanders’ – so why doesn’t it include the basic human right to health?

Claire Breen, University of Waikato

The Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Act comes into force soon but it doesn’t recognise the basic right to health, meaning the government is less accountable for delivering on its obligations.

Ethereal, evocative, and inventive: why the music of Kate Bush spans generations

Lorna Piatti-Farnell, Auckland University of Technology

Kate Bush has been ‘discovered’ by a younger generation of fans, proving that her music has a timeless appeal.

From our foreign editions

The world’s affluent must start eating local food to tackle the climate crisis, new research shows

Arunima Malik, University of Sydney; Mengyu Li, University of Sydney

Since 1995, worldwide agricultural and food trade has more than doubled. It’s never been clearer that eating local produce is a powerful way to take action on climate change.

‘Today is not my day’: how Russia’s journalists, writers and artists are turning silence into speech

Jacob Edmond, University of Otago

In Russia, a draconian censorship regime makes open dissent impossible. But people are finding ingenious ways to express their opposition to the war in Ukraine.

Jan. 6 committee hearings show what went right, not just what went wrong

Jennifer Selin, Wayne State University

Coverage of the House Jan. 6 hearings focuses on what went wrong that led up to Trump supporters’ laying siege to the US Capitol. A government scholar looks at what went right, both then and now.

Blue light: what we do and don’t know about the damage it causes our skin

Karl Lawrence, King's College London

What you need to know about blue light protection lotions.

Black death: how we solved the centuries-old mystery of its origins

Philip Slavin, University of Stirling

The Black Death evolved around Kyrgyzstan, according to new research.

How the slow-burning housing crisis is driving hunger in Canada

Charlotte Spring, Wilfrid Laurier University; Audrey Tung, University of Victoria

While decent housing and food are fundamental human rights, they are often treated separately, and primarily as commodities. How can we tackle housing and food insecurity together, and better?

Millions of years ago, the megalodon ruled the oceans – why did it disappear?

Michael Heithaus, Florida International University

A terrifying sight in ancient waters, the megalodon shark was once the most feared creature in the sea.

What’s in a name? Why giving monkeypox a new one is a good idea

Moses John Bockarie, Njala University

The new name for monkeypox must be aligned with best practices in naming of infectious diseases to avoid the uninformed negative narrative that associate diseases with regions.