Fiordland tourist town Te Anau preparing to remain in daylight saving time forever

Te Anau is roaring ahead with its plan to stick to 'Te Anau Time' when daylight saving ends for the rest of New Zealand come 3am on April 3.

The tourist town in Fiordland started a campaign last year to not turn the clocks back again, saying it would give visitors time at the end of the day to see their sights, like the glow worm caves and Milford Sound. 

It generated a lot of national buzz and had people asking if the town could actually have its own time zone.

But while the clocks will officially still go back an hour for them this weekend, tourism operators are adopting 'Te Anau Time' permanently as a way to get people to keep talking about them and what the area has to offer.

"When we came up with the idea it was a bit of fun, but it also made perfect sense as we do have a whole hour more daylight than the north of New Zealand," said Stu Cordelle, Visit Fiordland manager.

"The response we've had and the positive support from locals means that we'll be sticking with 'Te Anau Time' for a while yet."

Cordelle said it helped put the tourist town back on the map, and it especially gave a lift to local visitor numbers during the pandemic.

"Overall spending across the summer was up on previous years and it was great seeing so many Kiwis putting that extra hour of daylight to good use hiking, biking, exploring and enjoying the amazing natural surroundings of Fiordland."

But even though shorter days are coming, fewer daylight hours aren't a problem for people visiting Fiordland - especially with the glow worm caves and stargazing.

Fiordland tourist town Te Anau preparing to remain in daylight saving time forever
Photo credit: Newshub.

Great South tourism marketing manager Anke Ruwette said investigations are underway to see if Fiordland National Park can become an International Dark Sky Park as recognised by the International Dark Sky Association.

Ruwette said she wants the Te Anau Time campaign to show people there is a lot to do in the area - even during colder months - and the winter activities they offer are different to the rest of the country.

She mainly wants people to spend more time exploring what Te Anau has to offer, rather than just passing through it on the way to Milford Sound.

"Te Anau Time is here to stay. If that actually means not changing our clocks back we haven't quite decided yet. Te Anau Time, as it stands, is still true to its word because it is time for Te Anau," she said.

"When we launched originally, there was definitely a lot of talk - both positive and negative - because people love to talk about daylight savings and everyone has an opinion about it and whether it's right or wrong.

"But what Te Anau time really means for us is people need to come and visit Te Anau. It's really the time to come and visit and you need to spend more time in Te Anau."

Te Anau from above.
Te Anau from above. Photo credit: Getty Images

When the idea to stay in daylight saving was first floated, Ruwette said it conjured a lot of questions but also gave something for people to talk about.

"It's a continuous question we've seen from people: if they come to Te Anau, do they have to change their clocks or do they have to leave early to get there in time?" she said.

"People said, 'They're announcing a new time zone? This is interesting. So is the time different there?' People have been really enjoying it."

They planned to "be a bit cheeky" about it and get people talking about the town "that a lot of New Zealanders have never heard of".

"It [the 'Te Anau Time' announcement] is real, but at the same time, I don't know if we could create our own time zone in New Zealand. It got people talking about obviously the whole debate around daylight savings and whether it's good or bad, but that's not what we want to get into," Ruwette said.

"To be honest, we already have an extra hour of daylight in the south compared to Auckland, so there is more time in the day to do these amazing things."

Visit Fiordland recommends 10 things to do when you're on Te Anau time:

  1. Take in the extra daylight and warmer weather with a leisurely stroll after dinner to watch the sun go down.
  2. Sit down for an all-day breakfast and soak up the views.
  3. Meet up for an outdoor 'happy two hours' at Redcliff Cafe and Bar between 5pm and 7pm.
  4. A sunset sail aboard the Faith with a complimentary glass of bubbly and delectable canapes.
  5. Reconnect with nature, longer days are ideal for enjoying Lake Te Anau. Hop on a paddleboard or take a swim out to the pontoon.
  6. Take time to stargaze, with little light pollution Te Anau is a night sky delight.
  7. Step back in time and check out the once thought to be extinct Takahē.
  8. Grab some street food or takeaways and head down to the lake for some al fresco dining.
  9. Relax! Enjoy the extra daylight anyway you choose!
  10. Do something new, Te Anau Time is the perfect time to do something new.