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Should Auckland change its Easter trading rules?

Auckland Council is taking public submissions over proposed changes to Easter trading restrictions in the Auckland region.

A recent law change has given local councils the authority to grant permits for Easter Sunday trading. The council's Governing Body has proposed a bylaw that will allow communities to have greater autonomy over whether they allow trade on Easter Sunday.

Under the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990, the large majority of retailers are prohibited from operating during this period, with shops who chose to open facing prosecution and a $1000 fine. Dairies, service stations, takeaway bars, restaurants and cafes are exempt from forced closure. Certain areas such as Parnell Road, central Taupo and Queenstown are excluded from the trading restrictions. One of the stranger exemptions is garden centres who, unlike supermarkets, are allowed to open on Easter Sunday but not Good Friday.   

Retail New Zealand Spokesperson Greg Harford says the current rules and exemptions are far too complicated, and don’t make sense in the 21st century. “The reality is that some customers [...] want to be able to go to the shops on Easter Sunday, and some businesses [...] want to be able to open.” Harford says Retail New Zealand are strongly in favour of a single Auckland-wide rule being set, stating this approach makes the most sense as it is less confusing for customers, businesses and employees. “It's about choice at the end of the day. We think that in the 21st century the government and local government really don't have a place regulating shopping between consenting adults.”

However, some groups are opposed to lifting Easter trading restrictions. FIRST Union’s Retail, Finance and Commerce Secretary Maxine Gay has voiced concerns regarding the law change. “Our union has already written to the council [...] urging it to adopt a policy of retaining the status quo.” Gay says there are only three and a half days a year in which shops are required to close, and allowing business to open would take away a guaranteed day off for retail staff. FIRST Union claims there isn’t a widespread appetite for change among employers in Auckland, stating pressure to change restrictions is mostly being driven by Foodstuffs, who are largely non-unionised. “Workers in that group of companies, Pak n’ Save and New World, won’t even get any extra pay or a day-in-lieu.”

Under the Workers Choice Provision employees have the right to refuse to work Easter Sunday, but Gay says pressure from management and lack of knowledge about rights will force some into working.  

To submit your opinion about Easter trading hours visit Feedback closes at 4pm, Sunday 11th of June.

To listen in full to the interviews, click here.

Adam Jacobson, 95bFM News