Working parents will hardly believe it is school holidays again. The long summer vacation ended just yesterday, it seems. Even the kids might be surprised. The first warm months of school brought so many outdoor activities that it probably felt like an extension of the summer break. But it's true, when tomorrow dawns the kids will look forward to two whole weeks with nothing to do.

The very idea of it is enough for many parents to organise some activities for them. Holiday programmes run at schools, sports clubs and municipal libraries are usually available. The first term holiday is the best one to be outside. The weather is not as hot as in January and not as cold as it will be when the next two breaks come around. New Zealand's oceanic climate, warmed by water that loses heat at a slower rate than land, makes autumn mild and settled. Families should make the most of it.

And they do, on the evidence of accident figures. Our report today on the application of the new Health and Safety at Work Act to holiday activities reveals ACC has received more than 260,000 claims for school-age children during holidays over the past four years, more than 5000 a week. Only 280 over those four years, or fewer than six a week, occurred in organised holiday programmes, which suggests those have been well supervised without the additional demands of the new act.

Essentially the act expects managers of workplaces (which includes schools, sports clubs and other public amenities) to look out for hazards and try to anticipate possible mishaps. It is as well that parents and private homes are not included. Parents today are often said to be too anxious to imagine possible risks and too protective.


Minor injuries are part of life, arguably part of learning. The most common ACC claims in school holidays are for soft tissue injuries, the sorts of bruises, tears, gashes and sprains that come from falling off a skateboard, climbing a tree, slipping in a creek. They are part of growing up - or used to be and should be. Children soon discover how to negotiate minor hazards safely.

It is drownings that are too high in New Zealand and it is a little too cool for the beach in these holidays. So let the kids explore their surroundings, while keeping an eye from a distance, as SafeKids Aotearoa director, Ann Weaver suggests. Teach them some first aid, too.

Over the next two weeks, our million kids are likely to bring 10,000 injuries to a doctor or an emergency room. Let's ensure none are serious and none are afraid to get back on the bike.