Take back the clocks

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
4 October, 2019

Some call it jet lag without the duty-free, others call it a government time heist. Most people just call it daylight savings.

Yes, that’s right! It’s that time of the year again when Kiwis “lose an hour of sleep”.

Every year on the last Sunday of September, clocks are put forward one hour at 1 am. The rationale is to extend the number of daylight hours after work or school during spring and summer.

While most people only grumble about the loss of sleep for a couple of days, or at least until the next sunny evening good enough for a barbeque, there is a small movement in New Zealand fighting against the long-standing practice.

“Take Back The Clocks” is a small group lobbying for the abolition of daylight savings through legislative change.

Followers of the group’s Twitter account have tweeted clever hashtags, including #Cloxit, #TimeStrike, and #HandsOffOurClocks. One tweet asserted that the only hands that belong on a clock are big, small and second – never politicians.

Proponents such as farmers claim dark winter mornings would make milking cows extremely difficult. On the other hand, detractors such as the cows argue that they experience the same jet lag as humans when they are milked one hour earlier.

There is some conflicting evidence that the transition to daylight saving time is associated with an increase in car crashes and workplace accidents, as well as decreased productivity. There are even claims it increases the risk of heart attack.

In response to this heated debate, I suggest a fun experiment. A willing government could easily test the effects of daylight savings.

Instead of daylight savings ending in April across all of New Zealand, it would simply only be implemented in the North Island while the South Island would remain on summertime hours.

Over the year life will go on as usual, except New Zealand will have two time zones.

Yes, this would be inconvenient, but in the pursuit of settling the debate sacrifices must be made. The United States has six time zones; New Zealand can deal with two for just one year.

After a year, the results from the wellbeing surveys would finally settle the debate. My prediction is the South Island would have the highest absolute level of wellbeing.

Like many other serious debates in New Zealand, ideology and anecdotal evidence should not be how we determine policy. The only way forward is evidence-based policy.

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates