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Chatham Islands’ Standard Time

New Zealand’s Chatham Islands are 12 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+12:45) when they are not on daylight saving time (DST).

Astronaut photography of Chatham Island, the largest island of the Chatham Islands.

Chatham Island, New Zealand.

Photo courtesy Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth."

The Chatham Islands are located about 860 kilometers (about 534 miles) east of Christchurch, are 45 minutes ahead of the time in mainland New Zealand today.

Which Time Zone?

The Chatham Islands are on UTC+12:45 when they do not observe DST. The islands move their clocks forward by one hour to UTC+13:45 when it is on DST. The time on the Chatham Islands is 45 minutes ahead of mainland New Zealand.

New Zealand is on UTC+12 and turns the clocks one hour ahead, being on UTC+13, during when it observes DST.  The Chatham Islands and mainland New Zealand annually observe DST from the last Sunday of September until the first Sunday of April.

New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs administers the Time Act 1974 and all government-policy issues about time (including daylight saving) for New Zealand, including the Chatham Islands.

Brief Background

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). New Zealand’s clocks moved forward by 30 minutes (to UTC+12) due to World War II emergency regulations in 1941. The Standard Time Act 1945 made this decision permanent. The Act ensured that New Zealand’s standard time was set at UTC+12.

Chatham Islands’ Time

The Standard Time Act 1945 prescribed New Zealand standard time to be 12 hours ahead of GMT (not including DST) and applied to all of New Zealand, such as the Chatham Islands.  However, Chatham Islanders informally set their clocks 45 minutes forward of the rest of New Zealand.  It is unclear as to when this practice started but it is likely to be sometime before 1945, according to the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. It is also uncertain as to why the time zone was made to UTC+12:45 instead of observing the time on New Zealand’s mainland.  

The Secretary of Marine, which is a permanent public servant along the British model, noted that there were some issues for sailors around the difference between the legal time and the time used by Chatham Islanders. The Chatham Islands’ residents voted on whether to use New Zealand standard time or to remain 45 minutes ahead. The votes were made in May, 1955, to achieve uniformity. Two votes favored New Zealand standard time and 35 votes favored being 45 minutes ahead of New Zealand standard time.

New Zealand’s Parliament formalized the Chatham Islanders’ decision in 1956 by amending the Standard Time Act 1945 to advance the time on the Chatham Islands to being legally 45 minutes ahead of New Zealand standard time. This law was effective from January 1, 1957.  There was no daylight saving in New Zealand during that time and there was no daylight saving on the Chatham Islands either.

Time Act 1974

New Zealand’s Parliament passed the Time Act 1974 in 1974. This Act specifies that the standard time in the Chatham Islands are 45 minutes ahead of New Zealand standard time. The Act does not give an official name to the time followed in the Chatham Islands.  It specifies that the Chatham Islands observe DST when the rest of New Zealand does (ensuring that the Chatham Islands will always be 45 minutes ahead of New Zealand).  The Chatham Islands currently observe DST from the last Sunday of September until the first Sunday of April each year, as with the rest of New Zealand.

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