Push to free up Easter trading

Jacqui Dean.
Jacqui Dean.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean is changing tack in her bid to allow commercial trading at Easter in tourist towns like Wanaka.

Ms Dean told the Otago Daily Times yesterday she has begun lobbying her government colleagues to change the Shop Trading Hours Repeal Act 1990.

She wants to see a ''mechanism'' reinstated that would allow towns to apply to be exempt from the ban on trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

At Easter, almost all Wanaka businesses opened their doors to cater for thousands of visitors attending the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.

In doing so, they contravened the Act and risked a $1000 fine.

Bills introduced to Parliament by Ms Dean to free up Easter trading have twice been voted down and Ms Dean said yesterday she did not now think this was a way to ''fix this problem''.

''It's not going to happen on the floor of the House by way of a member's Bill, so what I am doing is lobbying my colleagues now to see if we can get the exemptions regime reintroduced into the Shop Trading Hours Act.''

Ms Dean said ''some barmy previous government'', when it repealed the law in 1990, allowed Queenstown and Taupo to be exempt but ''closed the door'' on everybody else.

''All I want to do now is reintroduce the exemptions process so that communities such as Blenheim and Rotorua and Wanaka can apply for an exemption to trade.''

Ms Dean said would like to see the law changed before next Easter.

''I don't want another year to roll by and we haven't fixed this stupid problem.''

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday the Easter trading law needed an overhaul.

''I don't think the law is working terribly well, but I've always voted in favour of liberalisation of trading laws when it comes to Easter weekend,'' Mr Key said.

Easter trading laws would always be a conscience vote, he said.

Wanaka Chamber of Commerce president Alistair King said yesterday the chamber was working with Ms Dean to change the law and bring back the commission that heard applications for exemptions.

''We would apply to have an exemption on the basis that we are now a tourist town, just as busy as what Queenstown and Taupo are, and we should have the same exemption.

''We need to be able to cater to the tourist's needs and, of course, to the tourist's dollar.''

Radio New Zealand reported yesterday Wanaka retailers had been tipped off an inspector from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would not visit the town.

In a statement yesterday, Labour's labour issues spokesman Andrew Little said a government department giving ''a nod and a wink'' to traders, and a government member of Parliament then claiming this was grounds for a review of the law, was ''another act of Third-World shonkiness'' from the National Government.

''Reports from Wanaka and other parts of the country make it clear the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has just given up enforcing the relevant legislation.

''On what basis did the ministry decide it just wouldn't enforce the law, and give a signal that the law could be openly flouted?''

Ministry communications adviser Philippa Norman responded that the ministry ''did not discuss its enforcement approach for Easter weekend, including its approach to Wanaka, with external parties''.


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