A formal complaint has been made to the Labour Inspectorate after two Wānaka supermarkets broke the law to continue trading on Good Friday.
But the supermarkets in question say an "informed decision" was made amid a difficult time for businesses in Queenstown and Wānaka because of the pandemic.
First Union has hit out at the New World supermarkets’ “appalling behaviour” which goes directly against the Holidays Act.
“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.
The Labour Inspectorate has since launched an investigation into the supermarkets’ opening after First Union notified them yesterday afternoon.
Watson also contacted Foodstuffs’ South Island, who owns the New World brand.
“It seems as though they are backing these supermarkets and that’s really regretful. It’s not a good image," Watson said.
Lakes District Deputy Mayor Calum MacLeod, however, defended the decision. He said the Central Otago township was preparing for a bumper weekend.
“Wānaka is extremely busy this weekend, normally we’re a town of about 12,000. There’s probably between 35-40,000 people in town,” he told 1 NEWS.
“The supermarkets opening is more of a service to them than a disrespect to anyone else.”
MacLeod said the tourism industry in the area was dealt a hard blow by Covid-19, so this busy weekend offers businesses an opportunity to bounce back.
“Well in the current climate where most of the tourism businesses are running at round about 40 per cent and that’s an impact that flows on and it flows on to everyone, supermarkets included”.
Foodstuffs South Island is also supporting the move.
"This holiday comes on the back of a very challenging year for the Queenstown and Wānaka community who have been severely impacted by Covid-19 and the lack of international tourism to the area," it said in a statement to 1 NEWS.
"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.
"In situations like this our store owners make an informed decision to put their community, staff and customers’ needs first and we know the local community appreciates the ability to be able to access much needed groceries over the holidays.
"In order to meet the needs of the community, our Wānaka stores have taken the decision to open over the Easter holiday, just as many Queenstown businesses do."
It said because of the limited number of grocery options in Wānaka, "the stores didn’t open the sudden influx of Kiwi holidaymakers would really struggle to be able to satisfy their grocery needs".
But First Union aren’t buying it, saying consumers are sick of supermarkets “crying wolf”.
“For these supermarkets, quite frankly it’s like crocodile tears that are flowing into Lake Wānaka,” Watson said.
He called on the government to administer harsher penalties for businesses who deliberately trade on a public holiday.
“These supermarkets and their owners think they can flout the law and are not being penalised in any meaningful way. The maximum fine is $1000, there really needs to be a change here.
“Supermarkets earn millions of dollars a week and $1000 is not going to do much."
Watson said these supermarkets opening “doesn’t seen a good message” about the New World brand, and that it’s a "double standard".
Some Wānaka stores inside the Pembroke Village Mall have been given the exemption from Government to open on Easter Sunday under the Shop Trading Hours Act.
However, this still does not include opening on Christmas or Good Friday.