Time's up: Should we end daylight saving in New Zealand?

What bedtime? Emily Leggett is worried toddler Tāne's routine will be affected by daylight saving.
ROSA WOODS/STUFF
What bedtime? Emily Leggett is worried toddler Tāne's routine will be affected by daylight saving.

Is New Zealand going backward by springing forward?

As out-of-sorts Kiwis stagger into another daylight saving season, at least 28 other countries could drop the clock-changing practice.

While the extra hour of sunlight appears universally popular, changing the time comes at a price many people just don't want to pay.

There's a dark side to daylight; so is it time we lived in the now?​

READ MORE:
Why daylight saving leaves you 'jetlagged'
How to cope with losing an hour's sleep
Daylight saving: how to cope with nights

As Aotearoa's daylight saving season starts, the custom of bi-annual clock-altering looks set to wind down in Europe. 

More than 80 per cent of people in the European Union want to stick to year-round summer hours, a recent consultation found. Following the result, the European Commission will recommend the change.

New Zealand has a history of changing its time.
SUPPLIED
New Zealand has a history of changing its time.

On the other side of the world, Kiwis were split when asked what they wanted. A Neighbourly poll of 2481 people revealed 49.3 per cent wanted constant summer hours and 50.7 the status quo.

New Zealand has tinkered with its time before; daylight saving dawned for Aotearoa twice; first in 1927 and then in 1974.

It started in 1927, to give people more daylight for after-work pursuits, but a 1928 act reduced the advance to half an hour. 

"Summer Time", as it was known, stopped in 1945 when New Zealand standard time was advanced permanently by half an hour.

The 1974 revival of daylight saving was opposed by farmers who would have to milk their cows in the dark, historian Michael Belgrave said.

"That it was established, illustrated the decline in political power of New Zealand farmers and the rural community by the 1970s."

Emily Leggett is bracing herself for the change in toddler Tāne's sleep routine when the clocks go forward.
ROSA WOODS/STUFF
Emily Leggett is bracing herself for the change in toddler Tāne's sleep routine when the clocks go forward.

According to the NZ Encyclopaedia, the other opponents were mothers of young children, something Emily Leggett can understand.

The Porirua parent said her household had been preparing for the change in hours which would see a big change in routine for two-year-old Tāne.

"We've been bracing ourselves for it; it took Tāne a year to sleep through the night.

"This is the thing with children; it takes a long time to get into a routine and not long to break it."

Dark curtains, changing the day's routine to an hour earlier and tiring out her energetic son would all help with a peaceful night.

Chris Lewis of Federated Farmers says permanent summer hours would be a perfect world.
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Chris Lewis of Federated Farmers says permanent summer hours would be a perfect world.

"In a perfect world we could have summer hours all the time, but it's not perfect, is it?"

For Chris Lewis, all-around summer hours would also be a perfect world, especially when there are cows to milk.

"People are creatures of habit and so are animals. When you milk cows at the same time every day then all of a sudden it's an hour earlier they don't like it."

The Federated Farmers' national dairy chair, Lewis said farmers had traditionally been against the clock change because it was hard on their bodies and their stock.

"It would be nice to have it stay the same, but you just get up, have a groan and get on with it."

While daylight saving might herald the start of barbecue season and summer sports, changing the time also spells exhaustion, accidents and the potential for heart attacks.

An hour might seem a small adjustment but it was a significant change for a person's circadian body clock, Massey University's Dr Karyn O'Keeffe​ said.

"While there is some conflicting evidence, the transition to Daylight Saving Time is likely associated with increased motor vehicle and workplace accidents, as well as decreased productivity. 

"It may also be associated with an increased risk of heart attack."

An hour's adjustment is a significant change for a person's circadian body clock, Massey University's Dr Karyn O'Keeffe​ says.
SUPPLIED
An hour's adjustment is a significant change for a person's circadian body clock, Massey University's Dr Karyn O'Keeffe​ says.

Won't somebody think of the children? 

It's that most wonderful time of the year.

The season for barbecues, after-dinner beach walks, and, satisfyingly, when the clocks in my life tell the actual time.

Including the microwave, the decoder thing, the car and actual timepieces, there must be twenty clocks in my life, and I don't mess with any of them.

The office clock is updated by magic, and my cell phone and my computer always manage to do it themselves. 

The thing is, daylight saving hasn't always been such a happy time.

There were dark phases when I had two, two-year-olds and a five-year-old bouncing off the well-lit walls of their bedrooms at bedtime. 

There were the years I worked on farms; if you've never had 200 animals look at you like a lunatic when you try to move them an hour early, trust me, it's awkward.

Years later, I was the parent that dropped their children off to an empty school because of daylight-saving confusion, and I've been late to work on more than one year.

The time-bending we do in this country is confusing enough for adults but won't somebody think of the children?

Childhood at its very essence is bewildering, but the bafflement I experienced at daylight saving is still vivid all these years later.

We always had an early bedtime – my mum later said it was the only thing that kept her from killing us – but there was something profoundly unfair about going to bed in the daylight.

As a pyjama-clad small person, I peeked through my curtains one evening to see a group of friends go cycling past in the sunlight. Thirty years later I'm still working through that experience.

I vote for year-round summer hours: for the parents, the animals and the children. 

And the clocks.

Sunday Star Times