News and events

NZ’s bold step to standard time 150 years ago

This article was published on 1 November 2018

Tomorrow, 2 November 2018, marks 150 years since New Zealand became the first country in the world to implement a standard time across the nation.

Up until 1868, each region operated by its own time, largely based around the midday sun, which varies from place to place. Invercargill was 25 minutes ahead of Wellington, for instance. It wasn’t until the arrival of the telegraph and the steam train network that the need arose for accurate regional and national timekeeping.

To celebrate the anniversary, the country’s official time keepers at our national Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL) are partnering with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the National Library to hold a public event this evening at the National Library in Wellington from 5.45 – 7.30pm. It will include presentations by Gerard Morris on the history and Dr Bruce Warrington on the science of time. The Old Government Buildings clock will also have coloured lighting throughout November to mark the occasion.

“150 years ago New Zealand took a bold step against the status quo when we implemented a standard time right across the country. It might not seem like much today, but the decision fed much debate,” says MSL Director, Dr Fleur Francois.

“Ultimately, New Zealand saw the benefits of a united, less confusing national time. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long until other countries followed suit. To this day we continue to be held in high regard internationally for our role in the science and application of time.”

Read the full story at our Measurement Standards Laboratory website.