'Confusing' Easter shop trading ends with more prosecutions

Retailers continue to describe the Easter trading laws as confusing after another holiday weekend when several dozen businesses face prosecution for illegally trading.

All retailers are allowed to open today but as a public holiday they have to pay higher wages rates, which results in some food and beverage businesses imposing sucharges.

While this also occurred on Good Friday, no surcharges should have applied yesterday as Easter Sunday is not a public holiday, though it has heavy restrictions on what outlets can open.

Some resort towns, such as Queenstown and Taupo, faced no restrictions, while others, such as Wanaka and Rotorua, were unable to open. Most shopping malls were closed, though cinema complexes in them were open.

Among the exemptions yesterday were garden centres, which cannot open on Good Friday. Farmers and other markets were both open and closed yesterday, with retailers’ spokespeople saying advice was confusing and conflicting.

Stalls that sell mainly produce are allowed to trade but those selling other goods are not, according to one piece of official advice.

The Labour Department, which monitors the law, says it visited some 50 businesses that were open and decisions will be made on whether they will face prosecution. Last year, more than 30 businesses were fined for trading over Easter.

Newmarket Business Association's chief executive Cameron Brewer says: “This weekend there has been more confusion and frustration than ever before.

"Farmers markets were getting conflicting advice as to whether they were legally able to trade, with some now facing fines. Confusion also reigned over rules around licensed premises opening, with some seeing the need to eat being completely bizarre.

"Cafés can open if they have ready-to-eat food, but what is ready-to-eat food? More and more hardware stores, most of which have big gardening departments, are opening and facing $1000 fines by inspectors, even though gardening shops can legally open on Easter Sunday.

“The vexed issues around Easter trading are clearly getting worse. It’s not helped by the fact that three pieces of legislation, the Shop Trading Hours Repeal Act, the Holidays Act, and the Sale of Liquor Act all seem to run at cross-purposes come Easter. "

Mr Brewer says the Labour Department conducted extensive research and consultation in 2007 around Easter trading, but the Labour government failed to act.

"So all the work has already been done for this government to pick up. No piece of leglisation is perfect but the 1990 Shop Trading Hours Repeal Act could be a lot fairer. It needs to be updated."

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The NZ Easter trading laws will not be confusing if it follows other more developed commonwealth nations.

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Easy fix is to let them trade as per normal.

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I do not know what is confusing. As long as I can remember people were unable to shop during this period. I think we all just need to take a step back and contemplate things. So we can go shopping for 3 and half days per year. There is plenty of throught out the year when we can. Why can't we just enjoy being able to do nothing during this period.

Those who want to open their stores and businesses I hope are willing to work those days too. Why should workers be penalised because of the greed and convenience of others. For many retail stores this time is extremely quiet and will cost more to open. Mondays are busier mainly because people have gotten back from their Easter break.

Lets have a bit of commonsense and allow workers a break.

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Easter trading is a confused mess in NZ. Friends are visiting there at the moment and found it to be a rather inconsistent science, including a maximum of two beers to be served per one serving of potato wedges.

Meanwhile in Australia, we pretty much carried on with our usual business. NZ needs to standardise its practices.

Retail workers deserve as much of a break as the rest of us, and labour laws should ensure that can happen.

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