• Christine Fletcher
Women's Affairs

A rescheduling of the public and school summer holidays to reduce Christmas stress and provide a more flexible family holiday time was advocated today by the Minister of Women's Affairs, Chris Fletcher.

Speaking to an assembly at Auckland's Corran School, she offered a number of significant advantages that would arise if schools worked right up to Christmas or even into early January so summer holiday time could be taken over January and February, when the weather is more settled.

These advantages included:

less Christmas stress for women and families
a longer and more flexible time for business's to stagger staff summer holidays
business's could plan to stay open all days except Christmas and Boxing Day
Mrs Fletcher said the experience of many women over the Christmas New Year period was a nightmare. "Everything is so compressed".

"Many families find the Christmas break very stressful because of the combined seasonal pressures. While it is a busy and stressful time for the whole family, most often the real burden of looking after children, buying Christmas presents, organising the Christmas dinner and the family holiday, falls on women".

Mrs Fletcher said it's not only women with young children at home who find the end of the year difficult. "Women often end up doing their partner's shopping, as well as their own and almost always have the additional responsibility of creating both the magic of Christmas Day and a memorable holiday for the whole family!

"Let's consider separating Christmas from our school summer holidays so everyone in the family can truly enjoy the holiday season and enjoy each celebration in its own right."

"Women would have more time to manage child care and budgets, Christmas, and the family holiday time much more effectively and with less stress."

Mrs Fletcher said Europeans and Americans already benefit from separating traditional festivities from family holidays and spread breaks more evenly throughout the year.

"New Zealanders could transfer statutory holidays taken over January 1 and 2, to the middle of winter. I am sure for most people the colder months seem to stretch on forever. Two days taken sometime in July or August would provide an opportunity to break up the long winter months so that families could get together.

"The introduction of the four term year was supposed to have addressed this problem. It has failed to do so."

She said the business community could stagger staff holidays more effectively over the whole of summer. This would allow those that wish to stay open in January to increase their business and provide improved service to their customers. New Zealanders, and tourists, would appreciate being able to shop and eat out anywhere, anytime through out the Christmas New Year break." "And of course, if families were to have a more flexible holiday time frame, we wouldn't all be rushing on to the roads at the same time", said Mrs Fletcher.

Mrs Fletcher said Women's Affairs would be working with other government departments to develop and design a time-use survey later this year. It would provide valuable insights into how New Zealanders spend their time and the value of this to the country.

She said she would be discussing the holiday rescheduling proposal with Ministerial colleagues and the Ministry.