As the last (and biggest) public holiday before winter sets in, the Easter weekend was crucial for sales in tourism hotspots to tide retailers over until next summer.
However, in most places shops were only allowed to open for two days out of four, meaning sales that could’ve helped towns that go quiet over the winter were lost.
Retailers in smaller towns like Raglan defied the rules, as the sales potential proved all too tempting.
The Raglan Local Chamber of Commerce estimated around 85 percent of shops opened their doors on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, as travellers visited the cosy little surf town in droves.
It was estimated between 10,000 and 12,000 descended on the town from places like Auckland.
Spokesperson Geoff Kelly said the streets of Raglan were “jammed” with people wanting somewhere to spend their money over the Easter period.
An average shop in the town could easily expect a tripled income from the weekend, he said.
In Wanaka, Chamber of Commerce spokesman Alistair King reported close to 50,000 people entering the town over the long weekend.
Some shops deliberately flouted the law and remained open, as he says they couldn’t afford not to be.
In Rotorua, similar pain points were noted. Spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce Darrin Walsh said 35,000 visitors came through Rotorua each day, yet retailers weren’t able to open.
Many stores ignored the rules and opened anyway.
The proposed Shop Trading Hours Amendments Bill will allow local authorities, such as councils, to choose whether shops in their town can open over Easter.
Yet many council members are against the Bill, including Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer.
“Proponents argue this will ensure greater local control – allowing for communities to decide, not Wellington,” Brewer says.
“In reality, enabling councils to decide on Easter Sunday trading will add significant legal and financial burden. It will also force council staff and elected representatives to rule on the conflicting needs of religious groups, local communities, and small and big businesses.
“This was at the crux of the arguments put up by many TLAs, including Auckland Council’s submission which I and every councillor supported.”
He said the current rules obviously don’t work, particularly when looking at Queenstown and Taupo’s exemption from trading restrictions compared to Rotorua and Wanaka’s forced shutdown.
“For the likes of Rotorua the current shop trading exemption rules simply do not work for them. However this bill is like taking the proverbial sledgehammer to a walnut.”
With domestic tourism valued at $18.1 billion and several smaller New Zealand towns in strife, two more days open a year could bolster sales for retailers.
Foodstuffs, which owns the Pak’n Save, New World and Four Square brands, noted this in its submission about the Bill.
“The restriction on trading on Easter Sunday is a significant inconvenience to many customers, particularly for those preparing for holiday entertaining, and those travelling away from home for the holiday weekend,” it said.
“The growth in self-catering accommodation has seen an uplift in shopping visits by tourists and being unable to shop for groceries on certain days is a frustration for many.”
Many have also pointed out that the proposed solution means 69 different councils can make 69 different rulings on the matter, which creates confusion for tourists and shoppers.
Brewer proposes taking another look at the historic exemptions and working with the tourism districts concerned as a better solution.
“Again, the main issue remains around exemptions for certain businesses and certain geographic areas. They need to be reviewed and arguably updated.”