‘Good business sense' to flout law

Flouting Easter trading laws and having businesses open to provide services for an expected horde of visitors is ‘‘absolutely good business sense'', the president of Wanaka's Chamber of Commerce says.

The biennial Easter airshow Warbirds Over Wanaka, to be held during Easter weekend this year, attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the resort.

Wanaka Chamber of Commerce president Leigh Stock said it was important to provide services to these people, but he said the chamber did not actively encourage members to break the law.

It was an individual decision for businesses to open and he could understand their reasons for doing so, he said.

If shops complied with the letter of law - which prohibits most businesses from trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday - it would have a ‘‘detrimental effect'' on out-of-town visitors and their perception of Wanaka.

‘‘Everyone comes out a loser - visitors wanting to buy essential items, customers demanding services, businesses, and even Warbirds itself. It's a blatantly unfair law,'' Mr Stock said.

It was ‘‘quite strange'' and frustrating for business owners that 60km away in Queenstown there were no restrictions ‘‘at all'' on shops' trading, he said.

Wanaka community board chairman Lyal Cocks said it was up to individual businesses whether they followed the law.

‘‘Personally, I've always said it was archaic and we have been pushing for change for a long time.''

Two private member Bills, one from Otago National MP Jacqui Dean, and the other from Rotorua Labour MP Steve Chadwick, seeking changes to Easter trading legislation were voted down in Parliament last year.

Mr Cocks said the large influx of visitors to Wanaka would be ‘‘hugely inconvenienced'' if resort retailers chose to adhere to the letter of the law and closed for Easter, he said.

Wanaka wanted to attract visitors to the area and the Easter trading laws put the resort's businesses and the large number of visitors at a significant disadvantage.

Otago MP Jacqui Dean said continued delays to revamp shop trading hours legislation was penalising businesses in places, such as Wanaka, year after year.

Government inaction combined with Wellington bureaucracy meant little urgency had been placed on the issue.

‘‘[This] attitude is an insult to the hard-working business operators in tourist areas around the country who simply want to get on with the job of serving their customers,'' Ms Dean said.

Several Wanaka businesses contacted by the Otago Daily Times declined to comment on whether they would open for Easter.

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