A bill allowing local communities to decide whether retailers can open on Easter Sunday was introduced to Parliament today.
"The Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill will enable communities, through councils, to choose whether or not to allow trading on Easter Sunday," Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse said.
"The historical Easter Sunday shop trading exemptions are out of date and create an unfair advantage for certain businesses and regions that can continue trading while others stay shut."
However, Retail NZ said it was "deeply disappointed" in the bill.
“Retailers want the choice to open their doors at times when their customers want to shop – but Michael Woodhouse’s bill does nothing other than pass the buck on trading rules to local councils, impose costs on communities and ratepayers, and still tries to ban shopping on Good Friday and Christmas Day, despite the fact that customers can and do shop 24/7 on these days,” Retail NZ general manager Greg Harford said.
“We are particularly disappointed that Minister Woodhouse did not consult retailers about the bill, and has refused to meet us to discuss our concerns."
He said giving 67 local councils the power to make 67 bylaws about Easter Trading will result in significant cost for communities, industry, employee groups and councils, as they try to cope with a "tidal wave of lengthy consultation".
"We will likely see a patchwork of confusing and inconsistent rules being applied when a national approach would provide certainty for everyone.
"Nobody should be forced to shop on Easter Sunday, or any other time, no employee should be forced to work, and no business should be forced to open. But in 2015, these choices should rest with individuals, employees and business owners, not the Government or council bureaucrats."
Mr Woodhouse justified the bill by stating that "there is a demand from communities across the country to allow for shop trading on Easter Sunday", particularly districts that rely on tourism.
"However, we acknowledge that Easter Sunday continues to be a day of significance for many New Zealanders, which is why workers will be able to refuse work without having to provide a reason to their employer."
The Bill provides change to Easter Sunday trading only. Good Friday, Anzac Day and Christmas Day shop trading restrictions remain.