Auckland Mayor Phil Goff defends Easter trading rules

Auckland mayor Phil Goff.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff. Photo credit: RNZ/Nick Monro

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has defended his council's Easter trading rules which have been described as archaic by the retail industry.

Under the law, councils are given the power to decide whether retail trading is allowed during Easter weekend.

About two-thirds of councils allow shopping on Easter Sunday, but Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington, Palmerston North and Hamilton do not.

"In the 21st century, shopping is an important family pastime and, as a nation, we love to get out to shops with friends and family, maybe stopping for coffee or a bite to eat," Retail New Zealand chief executive Greg Harford said.

"Easter Sunday trading is working well in provincial towns and cities, and it's disappointing that our big city councils aren't allowing businesses to make the most of the opportunities. Retailers, especially those in major CBDs are still struggling to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, and many customers are keen to shop."

Harford said New Zealanders did not need councils or the Government regulating shopping, particularly when online shopping is available from anywhere in the world.

"It is completely hypocritical of councils to try and ban shopping while their own services continue to operate. Across the big cities, there is a range of swimming pools, leisure centres, landfills and recycling shops that are open today.

"If it's acceptable for local councils to open their businesses to the public on Easter Sunday, why can't retailers also be given the choice?"

Goff said Harford's concerns have never been raised with him since the council imposed its rules.

"In 2017 the governing body of Auckland Council considered the pros and cons of Easter trading, but on balance they decided 'look, 365 days in a year and three and half of those days are days that are not commercialised'.

"It wasn't that people were necessarily voting for religious reasons, some of them may have been ... the thought that there are some special times of celebration in our year where it's good for people to be able to spend time with their families and you don't need to shop every day of the year.

"That was the view that was taken and the issue hasn't been raised with council since 2017, so to the best of my knowledge there hasn't been a formal approach to the governing body to put it on the agenda to change that ruling.

"Some of the businesses that are closed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday are things like supermarkets. Well, supermarkets were open all the way through COVID and did pretty well out of that.

"I don't think it's going to make a big difference to the tourist shops, it may make some difference in one or two of the hospitality areas but restaurants and takeaway bars and cafes can open on those days anyway."