No change to Easter Sunday trading in Auckland

Easter eggs
Only a few shops can open on Easter Sunday in Auckland. Photo credit: Getty

Auckland Council has decided against relaxing Easter Sunday trading laws.

At a meeting on Thursday morning, Councillors voted 20-1 against letting all retailers open their doors on the Christian holiday.

Presently in Auckland, only a few shops are allowed to open - like petrol stations, pharmacies and garden centres.

Mayor Phil Goff led the resistance against change, to applause from First Union representatives in the audience - who gave him some chocolate eggs in thanks after the vote was taken.

"Make no mistake - if it's Easter Sunday now that becomes commercialised, the next step will be Good Friday because the same arguments will apply, maybe Christmas Day and even conceivably Anzac Day," the former Labour MP said, arguing that not everyone can get time off work when they want it.

"Even if this passed, most of us could - but some people couldn't. I ask whether it's fair for us to put pressure on those people working in the retail sector that they have to give up this special time of the year.

"I know that the legislation says you cannot be compelled to, but put yourself in the position of a retail worker, particularly in a small business, where the boss asks you to work - and I ask the question, do you really have the absolute freedom to say no?"

His view was echoed by the youngest Councillor, 31-year-old former hospitality worker Richard Hills.

"I know how hard it was when we were open on these days for the young people especially to say look, I really can't work this weekend. It wasn't often spoken, but they felt they were forced or had to work because there was no one to work as it is. If we open that up more there will be more people... who feel they cannot say no."

He says young Aucklanders would rather "experience the awesomeness of Auckland outside the walls of a mall"

"There's a lot to do when there's nothing to do."

Councillor John Watson said New Zealand has few public holidays, so it made no sense to take one away.

"By any comparison, where you look around the world, New Zealand is right down the lower end of public holidays where family life can be developed and more people can have a bit of a rest."

Councillor Desley Simpson admitted she might be a "lone voice" in backing the proposal. She said it was "unfair" that stores in some areas, like Parnell, are allowed to open while others aren't.

While the local board in her area - Orakei - backed the status quo, she said there were only three or four responses from the public, and business and residents' associations wanted change.

Councillor Linda Cooper said shops in the suburbs should stay shut, but suggested opening up the CBD, especially for visitors arriving on cruise ships.

'Hospital pass'

The Government last year passed the decision on whether stores could open to local councils, after years of

"It came before Parliament 11 times, and on each occasion Parliament failed to be able to resolve this issue," said Mr Goff.

"Courageously, they've now passed it to us - which might be described as a hospital pass."

Councillor Christine Fletcher said it was "absolutely unacceptable" for the Government to "dump" the decision on councils.

"We're going to have potentially a whole range of different policies for families on a day that is one we have traditionally shared together."

If the proposal had been accepted, there would have been consultation with the public before a final decision was made next year.

Polling by the council found 55 percent of Aucklanders were in favour of opening up retail trade on Easter Sunday, but an online self-selecting survey had 68 percent in favour of the status quo. Mr Goff said this showed of those who feel strongly about the issue, most want the status quo remained.

All the city's local boards, except one, came out in favour of the status quo.