OPINION: On Monday, June 4, New Zealanders will take a public holiday to mark the nominal birthday of a woman who lives on the other side of the world, has limited relevance to many Kiwis and who has not been here for a decade, despite being our head of state.
Between now and then, Parliament will have an opportunity to vest similar status in two days of much greater national significance, the day New Zealand was effectively founded and the day we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in its service. MPs should take the chance to make that change.
The legislation that sets out public holidays in New Zealand has undergone considerable changes in the past 10 years but, for some unfathomable reason, no government has ever had the gumption to "Mondayise" Waitangi Day and Anzac Day. The glaring anomaly means at least one of the holidays is lost every seven years, when they fall on a weekend. In 2010 and 2011, both were lost, in the latter case because of the rare circumstance of Anzac Day falling on Easter Monday.
Now, first-term Labour MP David Clark has introduced a member's bill that would end this ludicrous and unfair situation. The only serious cause to oppose it would be if it placed too onerous a burden on employers. There is no reason it should, as any extra costs could be spread across the seven years or so when one or both of the days would fall on a weekend and the holiday be observed on a Monday.
When calls to Mondayise the days cropped up last year, Prime Minister John Key raised two main issues. They were: the dates on which people who worked them, and the relevant following Monday, would be paid time-and-a-half and the prospect of commemorations for undoubtedly important national days being moved from the date on which they actually fell. Neither stands scrutiny.
The question of penal rates has already been addressed in respect of Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and January 2, all of which are public holidays that are observed on a Monday or Tuesday if they occur on a weekend. The suggestion that the same rules could not be applied to Waitangi Day and Anzac Day is laughable.
So, too, is the claim that the importance of the events being marked on those days might somehow be undermined if they are Mondayised. Queen's Birthday demonstrates the folly of that argument. Queen Elizabeth II was born on April 21, not the first Monday in June. Nobody is suggesting that marking her birthday on the day we do now is disrespectful to her in any way, just as Mondayising Christmas Day does not undermine its sanctity to practising Christians.
In any case, Mr Clark has made clear that it is not his intention to change the day on which commemorations are held. In years in which February 6 or April 25 fall on a Saturday or Sunday, they would be marked on those days, in exactly the same way as they are now.
The only difference would be a holiday on the Monday, a chance to make a weekend of the occasions. If anything, that is likely to highlight the importance and value of our two de facto national days, not diminish them.