Small-town New Zealand is leading the way when it comes to Easter trading.
Twenty-five of the country’s 67 local councils have adopted a policy of allowing shops to open on Easter Sunday, many of them in the provinces or areas with popular with holidaymakers.
Industry organisation Retail NZ said the new law which allows councils to set their own rules came around last November, too quickly for some to make a decision this year.
“It is mostly business-friendly councils in heartland New Zealand that have moved quickly, while the big cities such as Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin have yet to consider the issue formally,” Retail NZ public affairs manager Greg Harford said.
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Five councils had voted against it so far – Porirua, Ashburton, Palmerston North, Nelson and Tasman.
The latter three made a decision without putting it out for public consultation, which was something councils had discretion over, Harford said.
He said the key to the new policy was that even in areas where Easter Sunday trading was allowed, businesses still had the choice whether to open – even if they were in a mall – and their workers had the right not to work.
Retail NZ argued for a national, blanket change to the Easter trading rules but said the momentum did seem to be for change anyway.
Cafés and other businesses are already allowed to operate, and Harford said that in an era where many customers would be shopping recreationally online anyway, it seemed odd not to give local shops the same choice.
There were also some inconsistencies that needed ironing out, such as allowing a garden centre to open, but not a hardware store that contained a garden centre.
As the rules stand, shops must still close on Good Friday, and those who work on Easter Sunday will not get public holiday pay or days in lieu. The public holiday is Easter Monday, and there are no restrictions against opening that day.
Workers who would normally work on Sundays but whose business decided to close would have to take a days’ leave or a day without pay, just as they did if their businesses closed over Christmas, Harford said.