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


The news of a new one-off public holiday has gone down well, with some New Zealanders looking forward to a bonus day off.

The government has announced a new, one-off public holiday on Monday 26 September, to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Christchurch local, Julian, thought a holiday in honour of the Queen was a great idea.

“I really do, yeah. Absolutely. Hopefully I’ll take the Friday as well and have a good break, do some remembering, yeah. It will be nice,” he said.

Sue just wanted the day off closer to the funeral.

“We should recognise how long she’s been on the throne, I thought it would be a sensible thing to do,” she said.

“I would hope it would be around the funeral time so I would spend all night watching the funeral.”

Faye on the other hand, did not think it was necessary.

“I don’t think we really need a public holiday, but I think we can think about the Queen without a holiday. Yeah, I’m thinking about her all the time at the moment,” she said.

Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope was also against it.

Even a one-off holiday would do damage to businesses, he said.

“It imposes costs on businesses at a time when they’ve sustained some pretty heavy costs and losses as a result of the pandemic.”

But First Union general secretary Dennis Maga saw it differently.

Labour shortages were heaping bigger workloads onto people and many would enjoy a break, he said.

“Members will be welcoming a public holiday. It’s up to the employers how open they are to recognise the need for this one,” Maga said.

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

Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff also thought a public holiday was the right move.

“New Zealand has relatively few public holidays. When you compare the number of holidays we have with similar countries, New Zealand lags behind,” he said.

“I hope working people will be able to enjoy the long weekend, and celebrate it however they choose.”

Public holidays harder for some sectors than others

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

“All the other public holidays we plan for, we work it into our budget throughout the year,” she said.

“Surcharges aren’t something that we do, so we work it into our budget … so it is short notice, but we will make it work.”

Infometrics principal economist Brad Olsen said timing and design of the holiday would be crucial to how much of an impact it would have.

“Of course, retail and hospitality are not able to operate or are having to pay higher penal rates if they want staff to come in on those public holidays – which would be an additional cost to the business,” he said.

“If you were to have more people travelling around, like you would on a normal holiday, there might be some money to be made up there in those sectors.

“But if the expectation is that people are taking a day off to commemorate and are therefore not going to the shops and are not going to cafes, then the actual benefit might well be quite muted.”

Analysis done by the government showed Matariki, on a Friday, would cost the country around $443 million.

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

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

“Do we have public holidays spread out in the way that we might want them? Are they too concentrated in any one area? And, more importantly, do they celebrate and recognise the things that we need to celebrate and memorialise?”

“I think there was a good case to be made for the Matariki holiday, but there was equally, in my mind, a case to possibly get rid of the provincial holidays, which can be quite confusing,” Olsen said.

A State Memorial Service will also be held the same day, 26 September, in the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul.