Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says the government acknowledges the need for a national day to commemorate the land wars.
“The time to recognise our own conflict, our own war, our own fallen, because there is no doubt at Rangiriri ordinary people lost their lives fighting for principle in just the same way as New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives fighting on battlefields on the other side of the world,” Mr English said.
I agree with the need to commemorate the wars which are poorly understood by many.
It wasn’t until I studied New Zealand history at university that the muddled impression I’d got from school was corrected.
But if a new national day is going to necessitate a day off, does it have to be another holiday?
We already have 11 statutory holidays, with penalty rates and days off in lieu for anyone who works on any of these.
Those come on top of four weeks annual leave which adds up to a total of day more than six weeks of paid leave.
If you employ 5 people, that’s 30 weeks or more than half a year, with a staff member off which is a big cost for a small business.
I’m not suggesting we cut holidays but rather than just adding another day, let’s look at all the stat days, when they occur, why and whether any could go in favour of the new day off.
With New Year’s day and January 2nd, Wellington, Auckland, Nelson, Otago, Southland and Taranaki Anniversary days, Waitangi Day, Easter and Anzac Day most people have five or six days off in the first four months of the year on top of annual leave, at least some of which is usually taken at that time.
Then there’s at least five or six weeks until Queen’s Birthday at the start of June and more than four months until Labour weekend in October for all but South Canterbury which has Anniversary Day in late September.
Hawkes Bay and Marlborough’s Anniversary Days fall in late October but are sometimes marked in early November.
Canterbury has Anniversary Day in early November and Westland’s and Chatham Islands’ Anniversary Days are at the end of November, though sometimes marked in early December.
The rest of us have no break for the couple of months from Labour weekend to Christmas.
Replacing all the different Anniversary days would be the easiest if someone was willing to deal with the uproar in Canterbury where theirs coincides with show and cup week.
Queen’s Birthday isn’t actually the Queen’s birthday and it could be replaced. Given how few people know what Labour Day signifies it is another option to give way to the new national day.
A new national day to commemorate an important part of our history is a good idea, but rather than simply adding a 12th statutory holiday, let’s use it as an opportunity to look at existing statutory holidays and work out a better distribution of long weekends.