30 Years of the Metric System
Thirty years ago today the metric system was introduced into New Zealand says Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard
14 December 2006
Thirty years ago today the metric system was introduced into New Zealand says Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard.
The Weights and Measures Amendment Act became law on 14 December 1976.
"It was logical for New Zealand to adopt the metric system as it was being used by our trade and export partners around the world," says Judith Tizard.
"Developing and growing our trade with other countries was, and still is, crucial to our economy."
"Today metrication is the internationally recognised system of measurement that forms the basis of international trade. It has become critical to New Zealand's international trade, as a significant amount of the goods we trade are measured by length, weight and volume in the metric system."
"For the last 30 years traders selling goods by weight or measure have been legally required to sell and advertise goods using the metric system."
The change from the imperial system to the metric system started in 1969 with the establishment of the Metric Advisory Board (MAB) which made the change over to the metric system over seven years.
Publicity campaigns at the time focused on the benefits of metrification and how the changes that would affect all aspects of life – even our national sport, as a press release from 19 June 1975 pointed out:
New Zealand's national game has changed the size of its rugby fields. What used to be the 25 yard line is now 22 metres from the goal line..
"Now 30 years on the metric system is part of our daily lives; we ask for petrol in litres, buy apples by the kilo and travel distances by the kilometre. However, there are still a few remnants from the imperial system of 30 years ago that we can't seem to shake."
"A quick look at the birth announcements in the weekend newspapers confirms that some parents still publish their baby's weight in pounds and ounces. Some of us even still refer to our height in feet and inches. How many times have you heard someone ask for a 'pint' in a bar? But these examples are the imperial exception and not the metric rule," says Judith Tizard.
Weights and Measures Act 1987
The Weights and Measures Act 1987 states how traders must use the metric system.
Traders are obliged to use the metric system of weights and measures:
- In relation to any matter, work, goods, or entering into any contract or transaction, when using a reference to any weight or measure
- When using for trade any weighing or measurement system
- Obligation to use metric system in advertising goods for sale:
- Traders and businesses must package, price, advertise and display units of weight or measurement using the metric system.
Some exemptions exist for products that have been imported from countries that allow non-metric units of measurement, but only if the metric equivalent is also used.
The above information is an interpretation of the obligations and does not represent the full requirements of the Weights and Measures Act 1987. Please visit New Zealand Legislation for more detailed information.
If you have any questions regarding these obligations please contact the Measurement and Product Safety Service at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs on 0508 627 774.
Measure for Measure – A Documentary Film
Measure for Measure, a short documentary film on the history of the growth of the metric system was made by the National Film Unit in 1973. The film is held at Archives New Zealand, PO Box 12-050, Wellington. Ph: 04-499 5595, Fax: 04-495 6210.