Sir Bob Jones

Commentary on issues of the day from the property tycoon, author and former politician

Bob Jones: Let's rethink our holidays

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Times change, so if the New Zealand public don't celebrate the reason for an official break, out it should go.

The most important holiday is the summer break and the hard fact is that summer in our country doesn't really set in until mid-January. Photo / Greg Bowker
The most important holiday is the summer break and the hard fact is that summer in our country doesn't really set in until mid-January. Photo / Greg Bowker

An irrational aspect of human behaviour is the tendency to treat any current situation as the norm. If our cricketers are in the doldrums they're dismissed as permanently inferior, ignoring past triumphs.

Investors are notorious for treating recessions as a permanent state of affairs, thus missing opportunities and, conversely, behaving recklessly in economic booms, ignoring that they never last.

Successful investors are always counter-cyclical, buying in gloom and selling in the inevitable boom. So too with great pain, be it a broken limb, a kidney stone or childbirth ... Once over, the memory becomes obliterated.

I mention all of this because it's possible that when you are reading this, the sun may be shining, the temperature soaring and the memory of the ghastly Christmas-New Year weather forgotten. Well, it shouldn't be.

It shouldn't for one excellent reason, namely that without fail it recurs every year, that is, in the principal holiday time for our workforce and in the middle of the school holidays.

Is it any surprise this is the busiest time of the year for Women's Refuge?

"Wairarapa homes without power" ... "Weather chaos affects holiday-makers" ... ... "South Island weather woes" ... "Northland under water" ... "Homes smashed"..."Trees toppling" ... "Cancelled flights strand thousands" ... "Weather warnings" ... "Wild winds, heavy rains strand 150 on Milford Track" ...

All these were headings in this newspaper and Wellington's Dominion Post over the three weeks of the past Christmas-New Year period.

"That's the holiday gone west," was the Dom's front page heading on January 3, with the standard photo of campers struggling to hold down their tents.

I recall teasing its then editor some years ago at an early December Christmas party that he could lay off half his staff over the coming Christmas period and just reproduce last year's stories with photos of boats smashing on rocks and campers awash, for they're the same every year.

Given the regularity of this annual Christmas-New Year bad weather, surely it's way overdue to review our public holidays, and especially the school holiday period.

The most important holiday is the summer break, not just for children but for everyone, and the hard fact is that summer in our country doesn't really set in until mid-January.

The Northern Hemisphere's hottest time is August, the holiday month in Europe. Our corresponding chronological month is therefore February, when everyone's back at work and the children at school. It's madness.

February is also the driest month of the year, which is the salient consideration.

I don't believe it's always been that way. As a child, like my peers I was always sunburnt and skin-peeling in November - sun-cream, at least in my milieu, being unheard of.

For half a century I fished the Taupo rivers, targeting the spawning runs as the lake-fattened trout made their charge up the rivers. When I began in the early 1960s, the runs started in March, the trout massing in huge numbers at the river entrances.

By the late 1970s, they were doing this in May and over subsequent years it's slipped back until today, when the spawning run doesn't become serious until August.

So too with deciduous trees. I've observed them budding ever later and often holding their leaves until midyear. In my goldfish pond the shoals of babies that once appeared to the delight of kingfisher visitors in November now turn up in February.

The swarms of locusts which, as long as I can recall, reliably arrived in the final week of January, last year made their appearance in early March. And I'm convinced the prolific bird life on my 50 acres is now breeding later than hitherto.

The Government should appoint a commission to inquire into all of our statutory holidays.

For example, given the annual show-pony behaviour by Maori exhibitionists, I suspect most New Zealanders would gladly replace Waitangi Day with a different date, New Zealand Day.

So too Labour Day is now redundant. And what of Queen's Birthday? Does anyone give a damn? All of these could be replaced with meaningful celebration days.

Easter likewise should be abandoned as a religious event, whereas Christmas, unlike Easter, hot cross buns and Easter eggs aside, while also religion-sourced, is part of our culture with festivity and gift-giving.

The test for retention should be the extent the public actually celebrates the reason for the holiday, in which case out would go Queen's Birthday, Waitangi, Labour Day and provincial days.

There will be naysayers, as always with change. There were when daylight saving was introduced but who would now complain?

You probably won't know that we actually have a Minister for Holidays, namely Peter Dunne. Peter is on record as suggesting it's time to review the Holiday Act. Excellent! Do it!

- NZ Herald

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