'Summer time' reintroduced on trial basis

3 November 1974

Ararua time (NZHerald/www.newspix.co.nz)

The trial proved popular with most New Zealanders and daylight saving of one hour between October and March was made permanent in 1975.

Not everyone was happy. Dairy farmers in particular objected to having to get up in the dark all year round. Others worried that putting their clocks forward would make hens stop laying, curtains and carpets fade faster, and lawns go brown. The Northland dairying community of Ararua rejected daylight saving and implemented ‘Ararua Time’ instead.

The seed had been sown in 18th-century Paris, when American envoy Dr Benjamin Franklin wrote a satirical letter to the Journal of Paris proposing that people save candles by going to bed early and waking at sunrise. Church bells and cannon fire could be used to ‘awaken the sluggards’. More than a century later, Germany and its First World War allies were the first to implement daylight saving. Britain and other European countries soon followed.

An early New Zealand advocate was the entomologist and astronomer George Hudson, who made an unsuccessful proposal in 1895. The cause was taken up more than a decade later by Dunedin MP Sir Thomas Sidey. After some 20 years of annual Member’s Bills, an hour of daylight saving was introduced in 1927. Reduced to a half hour from 1928, this became a permanent year-round shift during the Second World War. Not until 1974 was summertime daylight saving reintroduced.

Daylight saving has twice been extended, most recently in 2007 after more than 42,000 New Zealanders signed a petition to Parliament. It was argued that an extension to the ‘peak summer season’ would benefit recreation and tourism, and avoid a clash with the start of the fourth term of the school year.

Reported ill effects include disruption to some people’s body clocks, especially for those with sleeping disorders. Parents have cited the horrors of persuading toddlers to sleep – or teenagers to get up – an hour earlier. Others welcome the change for providing long, light evenings, encouraging barbecues and heralding the arrival of summer.

Since 2007, New Zealand daylight saving has run for more than half the year, from the last Sunday in September until the first Sunday in April. This is still less than British Summer Time, which is in effect for seven months of the year.