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Background on New Zealand’s Time

timeanddate.com gives a brief overview of New Zealand’s time zones and daylight saving time (DST).

Otago University Clock-tower, New Zealand
University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.
©iStockphoto.com/gprentice

The Time in New Zealand

Most of New Zealand is on New Zealand Standard Time (NZST), which is 12 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC+12 when DST is not observed. Most people in New Zealand turn their clocks one hour forward to New Zealand Daylight Time (NZDT), which is UTC+13, when DST is observed.  The Chatham Islands, which are part of New Zealand, are 45 minutes ahead of most of New Zealand.

Brief Background on New Zealand’s Time

New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to officially adopt a nationally observed standard time. New Zealand mean time, which was adopted on November 2, 1868, was set at 11 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Entomologist and astronomer George Hudson presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1895, advocating for seasonal time adjustment. However, society members ridiculed his idea.

In 1909 a parliamentarian named Thomas Sidey proposed to move the clocks one forward in New Zealand’s summer period to allow for an extra hour of daylight in the evenings. It was not until 1927 when the Summer Time Act authorized the clocks to advance by one hour between November 6, 1927, and March 4, 1928. The Act operated for one year. Furthermore, the clocks moved forward by just 30 minutes to being 12 hours ahead of GMT on October 14, 1928, up until March 17, 1929, as a result of the Summer Time Act 1928.

The Summer Time Act 1929 saw the clocks move 30 minutes ahead again from the second Sunday of October to the third Sunday of March the following year. The clocks were set 30 minutes ahead to GMT+12 (today, it is commonly referred to as UTC+12) from the first Sunday of September in 1933 to the last Sunday of April in 1934. This practice continued annually until 1941, when the period was extended by emergency regulations to cover the whole year. The Standard Time Act made New Zealand’s time change permanent in 1946.

New Zealand’s Time from the 1970s Onwards

New Zealand Standard Time (NZST) was defined in the Time Act 1974 as being 12 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC+12. Following this, New Zealand’s time would move from UTC+12 to UTC+13 during daylight saving time. Public response to a DST trial period in 1974/75 was favorable and the New Zealand Time Order 1975 fixed the period of daylight saving from the last Sunday of October each year to the first Sunday of March of the following year.

In 1988 New Zealand’s Minister of Internal Affairs arranged for an extended DST trial period to start in 1989. The schedule was from the second Sunday of October in 1989 to the third Sunday of March in 1990. The trial was successful and a new DST order was made in 1990. It declared that DST would run from the first Sunday of October each year until the third Sunday of March of the following year.

New Zealand’s Minister of Internal Affairs Rick Barker announced in 2007 that the nation’s daylight saving schedule would be further extended. This decision was made after results from a survey and petition showed that people favored an extended daylight saving period. Daylight saving time in New Zealand now annually starts on the last Sunday of September, when 2am (02:00) moves forward 3am (03:00) local time, and ends on the first Sunday of April the following year, when 3am (03:00) moves back to 2am (02:00) local time.

Example Places that Observe DST

Places that move forward by one hour for DST include (but are not exclusive to):

Amundsen-Scott Station and McMurdo Station in Antarctica observe New Zealand’s time, including the DST schedule.  It is also important to note that the Chatham Islands also observe DST but they are 45 minutes ahead of most of New Zealand.

Note: timeanddate.com would like to acknowledge New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs as one of the major sources of information on this page.

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