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For half a century or more it ha ß been the custom, in.theMotueka. district for the school children to be given a holiday for about a month at the end' of February, or the beginning of March, to enable, the hop-picking, operations to be prosecut«J with, facility. Last year, however, the Nelson Education B^oard decided that this long-standing practice should cease, it being contended that the holiday interfered; unduly' with the children's education, and that childlabour was not to be encouraged. This year some parents whojsvent hop-picking and took their childrerT with, them were prosecuted and mulcted in" penalties /or failing to send the children to School. Much feeling has been aroused in the district over the, action of the Nelson Education Board, and to-day, a deputation representative of hop-growers and parents waited on the Hbh.'G. J. Anderson (Minister of Labour), who, in the absence in Australia, of the Hon. C. J Parr, is acting as Minister of Education, to urge that the old custom "of giving holidays at hop-picking" time should /be reverted to. The Minister gave a favourable reply, stating that while the Education Board alone had the power to say when holidays should or should not be given, yet he would instruct the Department to forward a letter to the Nelson Board recommending that the wishes of the deputation h& acceded, to. Mr. Anderson indicated that ■he did not agree with the Nelson Education Board's views with respect to the child-labour" .aspect of the matter, and said that the Education Department at Wellington had not raised any objection to the holidays being granted. It was the, Nelson Education Board which had been responsible for stopping them: THE FAMILY EARNINGS. Mr, R. P. Hudson, M.P. for Motueka, who, along with Mr. H. Atinore, M.P for .Nelson, accompanied, the deputation, stated that he knew of actual cases where families earned fr,om £50 to £60 during the hop-picking season, and this, money was looked upon as something with which to clothe and feed the children during the rest of the year. If, the children were to be deprived of the holidays, then it would be impossible for the parents to go hop-picking, and this would go,hard on the poorer families. From the health point of view there was no question that the children, benefited by playing about in the open air while their ' parents were picking. It -would be better to give the. holidays,then than at, some other time whan tlje children would mly have the gutters in. the streets to play. m. He felt "-very strong on the matter, and appealed fop the custom to be reverted to.

■Mr. Atmore-said it was true the little ones did not pick many.hops, but it was equally true that they were hayin" a healthy holiday under the best conditions. There ware poor families in the kelson and.Motueka districts as well as anywhere else, and to deprive" them of the right to earn a little money hop-pick-ing because it might interfere with tile children s education was ridiculous In any case, he disputed that the children s education suffered in any way 'as a_ result of the- holidays. The majority of the, children^ who went hop-picking with, their parents were not going to be lawyers Or doctors, but tradesmen or farmers, and it' was far, more important that they, should have good health and strength to maintain their homes m the future than they > should get through a, certain standard" 'at the end of a year. The hop-growing industry was an important one to the Nelson district, and the no-license question was not involved in any way in the matter under discussion. The people of New "Zealand had decided in favour of Continuance, and if the hops were not grown in Nelson they would be imported. So far as the educational side of the matter. was concerned, his experience had been that if any boy or girl was going to be any uss at all they would get through any standard in four or five months. At the outside; the hop-picking could be completed in four weeks. He was quite sure that if a vote taken in the district, it would result in favour of a reversion to the holidays No one could cay that he was speaking with" the idea of catching votes, because there were very few hop-growers in his electorate they were only in Hie. southern part, as a matter of fact. It was not the children of the well-to-do who went hop-picking. The men on the Nelson Education, Board who voted against the holidays bein" continued were wealthy men:-?. The children would get all the education they required, and the- money that was earned at hop-picking would be handy at a time when the cost of -living pressed hard on.families. In any case, it was not a bad idea^ for a child to start working for itself at an early, age—it was part of the educational equipment of the child. ,j

The Minister: "I had to do it." Mr. Atmore: "You are hone the worse for it. Those who voted against the holidays would think differently if they had to depend on the children's earnings to provide their clothing. There is no suggestion of child-slavery like what went on in Taranaki. AH the conditions are good; they are picturesque; they are health-giving; and the children help to clothe themselves." INDUSTRY WILL SUFFER. _ Major D. M. Talbot presented a petition signed by 1000 people praying that the holiday be resumed. If required, he said, another 400 or 500 signatures could ha obtained. The people concerned wanted the right to earn' their living in' the way that suited them best. The Chief Inspector of Schools in the Nelson district had come to the conclusion *that it was not the hop-picking holidays alone that was responsible for making children backward. If the holidays were abolished the industry would suffer, and poverty that did not exist at the present time would be created. He knew of people who, since the holidays had been stopped, had withdrawn savings from the Savings Bank because they could not get along without the hop-' picking money. In ■ experienced people had had to be brought over from Wellington to take the place of the usual pickers and the result wns that much' of the last crop was spoiled and the pickers themselves were dissatisfied because they did not earn sufficient. Mr. C. J. Boyes, a hop grpwdr" endorsed the remarks of the' previous speakers, and said that if local pickers could not be obtained the industry, would be seriously handicapped Mr. W. H. Owen, secretary of the Hop-Growers' Association, said that 820 acres were under hopa, the number of growers being 222. The crop last season amounted to 4460 3001b bales, and the value of the crop this year was esti--s?i*SL at § m 'm' °* which between £16,000 and £17,000 went to the pickers. This was a great help to many families. J

Two mothsra of l»rg» famillei who were wth the deputation, Mwdaaie!

Miller and Simpson, said that they did not know what they would do if the holidays were done away with. Mr. Hudson said that 80 per cent, of the children concerned would be farmers, and their health was of far more importance than any little loss which they might.suffer, educationally, which he did ■ not think would happen. THE MINISTER SYMPATHETIC. In reply, the Minister said that ,he understood the matter was purely a local one, ■ and that the Department had nothing to do with it. The Nelson Education Board had the-whole thing in its own hands.. All the Department had. done recently, and not oh account of Nelson at all; wag to say that schools should be kept open for 400 * half days m the year The Education, Boards woWd apportion the holidays so as to meet the needs of the different districts. He read a memorandum from the Nelson- Board saying that the privilege of the three weeks' holiday at hop-picking time had heen abused considerably,, and that it had been found that the schools had been closed for four, five, and six. weeks. The board felt that uniform holidays should he observed throughout the district, that its duty was to encourage education, and discourage child labour. The children werenot fit to resume their studies after the hop-picking-season. --<•■ Members of the,deputation.: ■ lutely-absurd!",. .. , " v: ' Continuing, the Minister saidi that the Department had. prepared a report, which said that the arrangement of the holiday the hands of the Nelson Education Board. The recent endeavour to synchronise school holidays made " the Nelson Board's action all the more desirable. ' ■ ; • ■-.••■■■ Mr. J. Caughley (Director of Educa^ tion), who was present during the interview, said that the regulation, regarding the 4CO half-days on which schools should be open would not come into-force until the New Yt&r,, ■ NOT CHILD LABOUR': :';- 1:: The Minister said that "he would give instructions that the- Nelson Board should be recommended to fall in-with the views which the deputation had expressed. (Hear, hear)) From the com-mon-sense point of view, it seemed to him that employing the children on picking hops was not child labour'in the ordinary' acceptation ' of the',, term.' In the South, where the grain harvest v?ss a matter of importance/ the' holidays had once been altered by the" Education Board. He did not agree with" i that, and he did not agree with what the Nelson Board had done. Neither he, nOrr Messrs. Hudson or Atmpre, would be parties to child labour. That was going to prejudice the. health or normal education of the children,, but in; the ' present case-it seemed that-the children^ were not being harmed; but, rather, ' that out in the open air- was^doing them good. -He did nol know, however, whether it was wise that holidays should go on for three, months, as the Nelson Board had stated had occured.

Mr. Hudson: \"lt never went on for three months." •'.•■■ .-■.. ' Mr. Atmore: "That is quite an over^ drawn statement." . r- ■ .•: Mr. Owen:"No extension was ,made unless applied for." .''."'■■■ . The Minister: "This is as fai as.-I can go. The Department will send on a full report of this deputation with-a recommendation that what.has been carried' on for ' fifty years should not be interfered with. We cannot do any mo^e." ' Mr. Caughley said the action'of the Nelson Board was due to no direction, policy, or desire on the part of the Education/Department-. The reason the regulation regarding the 400 half-days was,brought in was that some districts allowed as much as three weeks more holidays to the children than other districts did. The regulation aJlowed twelve weeks' holiday in the year, the boards to arrange them themselves. A~ suggestion had been made for the synchronisation" of primary and secondary school holidays m order that all the .members of a family might get away ' at the one time. ■ ...'.•'.. In reply to Mr. Caughley, members of •" the deputation said that it would-not be necessary to close the schools in the- dis-' trict for'more than four week? in the hop-pic-king season. "GREAT SATISFACTION." • Mr. Atmore said that the .Minister's *' answer would give great satisfaction throughout the district. He was pleased with the reception that the Minister and the Department had given to the deputation. Mr. Hudson congratulated the deputation on meeting a Minister 'who had taken .such a common-sense view of the 1 situation., -. What, Miv ■ Anderson had done would be fully appreciated. ■V.

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NELSON'S HOPS, Evening Post, Volume CVI, Issue 130, 29 November 1923

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NELSON'S HOPS Evening Post, Volume CVI, Issue 130, 29 November 1923

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