Councils in major cities under fire for forcing shops to close on Easter Sunday

Criticism has come in for councils that have forced shops to remain closed on Easter Sunday as retailers continue to feel the impacts of Covid-19.

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While many of the country’s smaller centres have allowed retailers to operate, the same isn’t true in places like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Source: 1 NEWS

Two-thirds of New Zealand's smaller centres have allowed retailers to operate, but major cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin are proving slow to follow suit.

Those councils are failing to keep up with the times, according to Retail New Zealand.

“The current Easter trading restrictions are archaic essentially you can't open your store unless your council says you can do so,” Retail NZ CEO Greg Harford said.

“The rules just don't make sense in the 21st century. While many provincial centres have come to the party to try and support their retailers, the big cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin have steadfastly refused to allow shops to open their doors."

It’s frustrating those who say businesses need all the help they can get after bouncing in and out of lockdown.

“What I would have liked to have seen is Auckland Council walk the talk and say actually this year even as a one off we're going to allow Easter trade just to allow businesses a bit of a nudge up,” Mark Knoff-Thomas from the Newmarket Business Association told 1 NEWS.

New figures show a 30 per cent increase in retail spending for March 2021 compared to this time last year, despite Auckland being in lockdown at the start of the month. 

Those performing badly are reliant on international tourists. In addition, with increased freight costs and the minimum wage going up, two-thirds of retailers predict prices will creep up over the next quarter.

“That spending is very much split across the sector we're seeing a two-speed sector emerge where some businesses are performing really well and others are performing really badly,” Harford said.

Two days ago, a formal complaint has been made to the Labour Inspectorate after two Wānaka supermarkets broke the law to continue trading on Good Friday.

First Union had hit out at the New World supermarkets’ “appalling behaviour” which goes directly against the Holidays Act.

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The maximum fine for rule-breakers is currently $1000. Source: 1 NEWS

“This is one of the breaks that workers can have off and spend time with their loved ones and effectively this is pure greed,” spokesperson Paul Watson said.

But the supermarkets in question said an "informed decision" was made amid a difficult time for businesses in Queenstown and Wānaka because of the pandemic.

"Many businesses are struggling – the Easter holiday is a time where local tourism can provide much needed revenue for the local businesses and a real boost to the community," Foodstuffs South Island told 1 NEWS on Friday.