'Idiotic': ACT MP hopes new Bill will fix Easter trading rule that 'hurts small business'

The hospitality industry is hoping politicians get behind an ACT MP's Bill which would remove "idiotic" restrictions on Easter trading.

Anyone trying to fit in a bit of shopping on Friday would have been wasting their time, with shops across the country closed by law. The same will be true on Easter Sunday in some of the country, with some local councils letting shops open and others not. 

And even if a venue can open, whether or not it can serve alcohol can depend on where the customer lives, whether they're eating or not and how long they plan to hang around. 

"It's idiotic that bar staff will spend much of the coming weekend telling customers when they can drink, how long they have to drink it, how much they are required to eat and what they have to eat," ACT small business spokesperson Chris Baillie said on Friday.

"Sorry, chips aren't enough for your lunch, but if you have some salad, that's okay. Seriously, the time has come to end this silliness."

He's introduced a Member's Bill,  the Shop Trading Hours (Repeal of Good Friday and Easter Sunday as Restricted Trading Days) Amendment Bill, which would change all that. 

"Restricted trading over Easter represents a level of state control and bureaucracy which is unnecessary and hurts small business especially."

Hospitality NZ national president Jeremy Smith says it would "get some common sense applied to what is a very strange set of trading restrictions". 

"You've got these restrictions that take a lot of time and effort to explain to people. It goes back to times when I suppose the Government used to tell people what they can and can't do. Times have changed and people don't need to be told whether they can go out or not go out. If they feel like going out... then they should be allowed to do it." 

And with many hospitality businesses struggling to recover from COVID-19 restrictions, Smith says it's time they had some "good news".

"We're coming into winter, our reserves are down... then we get knocked back with archaic legislation that doesn't help at all. I think what ACT are doing is long overdue."

Two Wanaka supermarkets on Friday defied the rules, risking a $1000 fine.

"If the stores didn’t open, the sudden influx of Kiwi holidaymakers would really struggle to be able to satisfy their grocery needs," Foodstuffs head of corporate affairs Antoinette Laird told Stuff.

Unions are generally against loosening the rules, saying Easter is one of the only times workers can guarantee they'll have time off to spend with family. 

"Dragging people into work on Good Friday is absolutely disgraceful - and it's just pure greed," said FIRST Union southern regional secretary Paul Watson.

As a Member's Bill, Baillie's proposal won't be discussed in Parliament unless it's randomly drawn from the infamous biscuit tin. 

"Of course we needn't rely on the whim of the biscuit tin," he said. "I'm calling on the Government to pick it up and pass it into law before next Easter."