Christopher Luxon, Retail NZ back ACT Bill to keep stores open over Easter

Christopher Luxon is backing a Bill that would allow retailers to keep their doors open through the Easter holidays.

ACT MP Chris Baillie's Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill is set to have its first reading in Parliament on Wednesday and retailers are pleading with politicians to pass it.

The Bill would give retailers more choice over whether they operate during the religious holiday.

Under current legislation, retailers across the country are forced to shut up shop on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday - although some councils have adopted their own bylaws allowing them to open.

But even when venues open their doors over Easter, the rules are complex. Whether or not alcohol can be served, for instance, depends on where the customer lives, whether they're eating and how long they plan to stay.

You're allowed to operate as normal if your business is online, or you're a pharmacy, a grocery store or a garden centre; so too if you provide a service, such as a hairdresser or beauty salon - as long as you're not planning on selling any products.

Speaking with AM on Monday, National leader Christopher Luxon said he supported the Bill because it's a common sense and pragmatic approach.

"I support that change to the legislation. I think it's common sense and it's very practical and very pragmatic and I don't think it impinges on anybody's personal faith or their desire to worship in whatever way they do to celebrate a religious occasion.

"They should feel free to do that but someone's ability to go to the shops and to work and open a business at that time doesn't impact on that," Luxon said.

It's also a move backed heavily by Retail New Zealand with CEO Greg Harford telling AM the current laws are outdated and inconsistent.

"The problem at the moment is that there's some really outdated legislation that bans shops from opening on Good Friday and in some parts of the country on Easter Sunday. But the rules don't ban people from working, they just ban people from shopping.

"The rules are inconsistent and they really just don't make sense in 2022 and beyond, when actually we want to be able to get out and do things over the long weekend," Harford told AM host Ryan Bridge.

Harford said the rules being different across the country confuse businesses. He also said workers don't even necessarily benefit because while shops can't open, they can still require employees to work.

"Workers, in fact, don't necessarily get the day off now. It's a day when shops aren't allowed to open their doors to the public but it is still a day when people can work and actually many shops will have their teams in-store, perhaps doing the stocktake."

When Bridge suggested the vast majority of workers would get the day off, Harford said plenty are expected to work.

"My son was working on Easter Sunday this year in a retail store when the doors were closed to the public. And if workers do take Easter Sunday off in particular, because it's not a public holiday, it's a day's annual leave that they're forced to take, or in some cases, it's a leave without pay," he said.

Harford is pleading with politicians to vote in favour of the Bill at its first reading so it makes it to the select committee.

"We understand that it's being treated as a conscience vote by most of the other parties. And we are really asking everyone just to support this Bill through to select committee so that we can have the discussion, debate the pros and cons of it, and not close down the discussion before we have a chance to, you know, discuss actually what it means and whether it's a good idea or not."