Most New Zealanders look forward to a bonus day to remember the Queen

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A book of condolence at the Christchurch City Council (Civic Building).
Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

The news of a new one-off holiday has hit the ground running and some New Zealanders are looking forward to a bonus day.

On Monday, September 26, the government announced a new one-time public holiday to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Christchurch resident Julian thought a public holiday in honor of the Queen was a great idea.

“I really do, yes. Absolutely. Hopefully I’ll take the Friday too and have a good break, do some memorization, yes. It’ll be fun,” he said.

Sue just wanted a day off closer to the funeral.

“E should acknowledge how long she’s been on the throne, I thought it would be the wise thing to do,” she said.

“I would hope it would be around funeral time so I could watch the funeral all night.”

Faye, on the other hand, didn’t think it was necessary.

“I don’t think we really need a holiday, but I think we can think about the Queen without a holiday. Yes, I think about her all the time right now,” she said.

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Business New Zealand CEO Kirk Hope was also against it.

Even a one-time vacation would harm businesses, he said.

“It comes at a cost to businesses at a time when they have suffered some pretty heavy costs and losses as a result of the pandemic.”

But Dennis Maga, First Union general secretary, saw it differently.

Labor shortages put a greater workload on people and many would enjoy a break, he said.

“Members welcome a holiday. It’s up to employers how open they are to recognize the need for this,” Maga said.

“It’s been a busy year for everyone and I think a holiday like this to observe the culture and customs of the country is something that many workers will really appreciate.”

The chairman of the Council of Trade Unions, Richard Wagstaff, also thought a holiday was the right move.

“New Zealand has relatively few public holidays. If you compare the number of holidays with comparable countries, New Zealand is lagging behind,” he said.

“I hope working people can enjoy the long weekend and celebrate it as they please.”

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Holidays more difficult for some sectors than others

Cafe manager Sarah Alice said the uncertainty over what the holiday would look like and whether her cafe would open was difficult.

“All the other holidays we plan, we work into our budget year-round,” she said.

“Fees aren’t something we do, so we’re factoring it into our budget…so it’s short-term, but we’ll make sure it works.”

Infometrics chief economist Brad Olsen said timing and design of the holiday would be critical to the impact it would have.

“Obviously, the retail and hospitality industry cannot operate or have to pay higher fines if they want staff to come in on those holidays – which would be an additional cost to the company,” he said.

“If you had more people traveling around like you would on a normal vacation, maybe there would be some money to be made in those sectors.

“But if it is expected that people will take a day off to commemorate and not to the shops and not to cafes, then the actual benefit may be quite muted.”

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Analysis conducted by the government showed that Matariki, on a Friday, would cost the country about $443 million.

But there was an estimated $310 million to $470 million benefit, Olsen said.

It was difficult to know what the benefit would be on a day of national mourning, he said, and he believed a broader discussion of holidays is needed.

“Have we distributed holidays the way we’d like? Are they too concentrated in one area? And, most importantly, do they celebrate and recognize the things we need to celebrate and commemorate?”

“I think there was a good thing about the Matariki holiday, but there was also, in my opinion, a case of potentially getting rid of the provincial holidays, which can be quite confusing,” Olsen said.

A state memorial service will also be held at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul on the same day, September 26.