Easter trading debate moves from Parliament to the regions

EDITORIAL

The Government has thrown councils around the country a classic hospital pass with its Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill, which lands the thorny issue of Easter trading into the hands of local bodies.

This potentially sets up a multitude of regional clashes between religious traditionalists who do not want the greatest feast of their calendar tampered with, and more practical retailers who have been frustrated by the existing situation. Sporting greats Michael Jones and David Tua joined a campaign by Labour’s Pasifika MPs to oppose the change, and have vowed to press on with localised efforts.

Mayor Meng Foon said while he supported the ability of retailers to trade on Easter Sunday, no decision would be made without full public consultation. Since that would involve submissions and probably a hearing, it is doubtful a change could be made by next Easter.

Gisborne Chamber of Commerce president Gavin Murphy said they would support retailers opening if they wished, which seems reasonable. Staff do not have to work, though obviously they could face pressure to do so.

Retailers have certainly been frustrated by anomalies in the present legislation such as those that allow garages to sell some retail items and the fact Taupo and Queenstown are regarded as tourist destinations where retailers may open if they wish.

Easter Sunday is a strange day, with trading bans extending from midnight on Saturday to the following midnight — breaking up a long weekend that is the last break before winter sets in. After restaurants and shops pack out on the Saturday, there is something of a “ghost town” atmosphere before another day of a full holiday mood.

Whether viewed as passing the buck, a sad further encroachment of commercialisation, or local people being allowed to make decisions based on local situations — the latter is what is about to happen. This week’s Herald webpoll so far has readers favouring Easter Sunday trading for Gisborne by 53 percent to 44 percent after the first 86 votes.

The Government has thrown councils around the country a classic hospital pass with its Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill, which lands the thorny issue of Easter trading into the hands of local bodies.

This potentially sets up a multitude of regional clashes between religious traditionalists who do not want the greatest feast of their calendar tampered with, and more practical retailers who have been frustrated by the existing situation. Sporting greats Michael Jones and David Tua joined a campaign by Labour’s Pasifika MPs to oppose the change, and have vowed to press on with localised efforts.

Mayor Meng Foon said while he supported the ability of retailers to trade on Easter Sunday, no decision would be made without full public consultation. Since that would involve submissions and probably a hearing, it is doubtful a change could be made by next Easter.

Gisborne Chamber of Commerce president Gavin Murphy said they would support retailers opening if they wished, which seems reasonable. Staff do not have to work, though obviously they could face pressure to do so.

Retailers have certainly been frustrated by anomalies in the present legislation such as those that allow garages to sell some retail items and the fact Taupo and Queenstown are regarded as tourist destinations where retailers may open if they wish.

Easter Sunday is a strange day, with trading bans extending from midnight on Saturday to the following midnight — breaking up a long weekend that is the last break before winter sets in. After restaurants and shops pack out on the Saturday, there is something of a “ghost town” atmosphere before another day of a full holiday mood.

Whether viewed as passing the buck, a sad further encroachment of commercialisation, or local people being allowed to make decisions based on local situations — the latter is what is about to happen. This week’s Herald webpoll so far has readers favouring Easter Sunday trading for Gisborne by 53 percent to 44 percent after the first 86 votes.

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