The 1920s

Page 10 – 1927 - key events

The dawn of daylight saving


The Summer Time Act saw clocks advanced by an hour between November 1927 and March 1928. The idea of daylight saving had been championed for decades by Dunedin MP Thomas Sidey, who was first elected to Parliament for Caversham in 1901. He advocated putting the clocks forward in summer to give working people more daylight for after-work recreation such as gardening and sport. In 1927 he was finally successful, although a new act in 1928 reduced the summer advance to half an hour.

In 1941 summer time disappeared. To allow for greater use of sunlight during the war, clocks were advanced by half an hour year-round. New Zealand time was now exactly 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. In 1945 the Standard Time Act made this change permanent. Daylight saving was not revived until 1974, when an advance of one hour was trialled over summer. Although the start and end dates have changed several times, it has become a permanent fixture.

Royal Commission on Māori land confiscations

William Sim biography

Chaired by Supreme Court Judge William Sim, the commission was set up in 1926, largely at the urging of politicians Māui Pōmare and Apirana Ngata. Its report the following year found the government’s prosecution of war in Taranaki in the 1860s had been wrong and the confiscations unjustified, and recommended an annual payment of £5000 (equivalent to about $500,000 in 2020) to a board set up to represent Taranaki Māori. Confiscations in Waikato were found to have been excessive and an annual payment of £3000 ($300,000) was recommended; those in Bay of Plenty were largely found to be justified. The Taranaki tribes accepted the offer; Waikato initially wanted the land returned, but in 1947 accepted an annual payment of £5000 ($400,000).

These awards resulted in the establishment of the Taranaki, Tainui and Whakatōhea trust boards. Although the Sim commission’s findings were a significant official admission of the need to provide redress for injustice, they fell short of Māori expectations, ensuring that the issue would eventually be revisited.

F.P. Walsh takes over Seamen’s Union

F.P. Walsh

Fintan Patrick Walsh became President of the New Zealand Federated Seamen’s Union, beginning a long and controversial career as a trade union strongman. Born in Poverty Bay in 1894, Patrick Tuohy (as he was originally named) earned his stripes in the tough world of United States unionism in the 1910s. Returning to New Zealand in 1920, he worked as a seaman and briefly flirted with communism before ousting long-term seamen’s leader Tom Young in 1927. He would serve as the union’s president until his death in 1963.

After the election of the Labour government in 1935 and the formation of the Federation of Labour in 1937, Walsh emerged as the country’s most influential union leader. Dubbed the ‘Black Prince’ because of his dark hair and features, he was a ruthless leader who was loathed by his enemies but inspired deep loyalty among his supporters.

Formation of ‘The Group’

Louise Henderson's Addington workshops

A collection of Christchurch artists set up ‘The Group’ in opposition to the Canterbury Society of Arts, which they felt catered for conservative tastes and excluded younger, more adventurous painters. They wanted to break free from the ‘Victorian atmosphere’ of New Zealand art school training and foster a modernist movement in this country – a tall order in the culturally conformist twenties. Early members of The Group included Louise Henderson, Ngaio Marsh, Olivia Spencer-Bower, Alfred and James Cook, Rata Lovell-Smith and Evelyn Page.

Other events in 1927:

  • The second royal tour of the decade saw the Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George VI and Elizabeth, later the ‘Queen Mother’) visit New Zealand.
  • A School of Maori Arts and Crafts was established in Rotorua under the directorship of Harold Hamilton; Eramiha Kapua and Tene Waitere, two of Te Arawa’s finest carvers, were the first tutors.
  • The second Miss New Zealand contest was again won by Miss Otago, Dale Austen.
  • Botanist Leonard Cockayne established the Otari Open Air Native Plant Museum at Wilton, Wellington – a public botanical garden for the display of native plants.
  • The first national yearling sale was held at Trentham racecourse. At the 1928 sale, Timaru-born colt Phar Lap was sold to a Sydney-based trainer.
  • Rewi Alley went to China. Intending only to visit, he would spend the rest of his long life there.
  • The New Zealand cricket team completed its first tour of England. Captained by Tom Lowry, the side did not play any tests but won seven and drew 14 of its 26 first-class matches.
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'1927 - key events', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 1-May-2020

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