25 Aug 2016

Councils given right to decide on Easter trading hours

6:38 pm on 25 August 2016

Legislation that will make it legal for shops to trade on Easter Sunday, if their local councils agree, has been passed by Parliament.

The country's hotchpotch Easter trading laws have been a source of great frustration for many, with some tourist centres being allowed to trade, and others not.

Parliament has repeatedly failed to pass proposed laws to remove the Easter trading discrepancies, but this afternoon MPs voted 62 to 59 in favour of the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill.

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse said the current shop trading laws were arbitrary and outdated and did not reflect what most New Zealanders wanted over Easter weekend.

Mr Woodhouse told Parliament a large and growing number of events were being scheduled over Easter, such as Warbirds over Wanaka.

"This event draws large crowds from New Zealand and around the world. The inability to even have a choice to do a bit of shopping is outdated."

Mr Woodhouse said it should be up to local communities whether they opened on Easter Sunday - not Parliament.

Wanaka

A growing number of events are being schedule over Easter weekend, including the Warbirds over Wanaka event, in the South Island tourist town. Photo: 123rf.com

But Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said the government was being gutless in passing the contentious issue to local councils.

"This government, which is so fond of saying to local government that they have to focus on their core responsibilities, that they have to stop increasing local rates.

"This government is passing the buck on an issue which is fundamental to the role of the New Zealand Parliament."

National's Melissa Lee said the legislation was about empowering local communities.

She said it was ridiculous that shops in the tourist city of Rotorua could not open on Easter Sunday, yet those in Taupō could.

Traditionally MPs were allowed a personal vote on legislation like this - but National made its MPs vote along party lines.

Labour's Poto Williams said that would have been distressing for National's Pacific MPs and she pleaded with them to cross the floor.

A last-ditch effort by Pacific communities asking the National Party to let its MPs have a conscience vote also failed.

Earlier today, well-known boxer David Tua travelled to Parliament to make his plea.

"There's always hope, our brothers on that side be courageous and do it for our families."

The decision on whether cities and town will open their shops on Easter Sunday will now be up to councils.

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