Council votes for status quo on Easter Sunday trading

Mayor Phil Goff was in favour of preserving the status quo which, along with Good Friday, Christmas Day and Anzac Day, allows three and a half days of little or no shop trading each year. Photo Supermarket News

Auckland Council’s Governing Body today voted to keep the status quo on Easter Sunday trading in the Auckland region and not develop a policy to allow more shops to open on Easter Sunday.

Both councillors representing the Howick Ward voted to keep trading as is.

The Governing Body agreed to retain the status quo so that only shops currently able to trade on Easter Sunday will continue to be able to do so.

Mayor Phil Goff was in favour of preserving the status quo which, along with Good Friday, Christmas Day and Anzac Day, allows three and a half days of little or no shop trading each year.

“Most of us are fortunate not to be obliged to work on Easter Sunday. This allows us to bring our family together and escape commercialism for a day,” Mr Goff said.

“In making this decision, we have asked if it is fair for the council to put pressure on the retail sector to compel people to work.”

Councillor Dick Quax (Howick Ward) voted to retain the status quo. “Easter Sunday is a very significant day to many in our community and should remain a day for reflection, family and rest – not just another day to shop,” he told the Times.

Fellow councillor Sharon Stewart (Howick Ward) also voted to keep the status quo. “We only have about three days a year when family can spend quality time together,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be happy to go down the pathway of having no holidays next it will be Christmas Day.”

The Governing Body also resolved to express its dissatisfaction with this matter being delegated to councils by the Government to resolve.

The Shop Trading Hours Amendment Act 2016 (the Act) came into force in 2016 enabling councils to adopt policies to permit more shops to open for trade on Easter Sunday.

Earlier this year Auckland Council sought feedback on whether Aucklanders wished to retain the status quo or whether the council should adopt a policy that will allow shops in all or parts of Auckland to trade on Easter Sunday from 2018.

Findings from community engagement include:

  • contrast of views between a demographically representative research survey and a self-selecting public engagement survey:

55 per cent in the research survey supported more shops opening

68 per cent in the public engagement survey supported the status quo

  • business highlighted the importance of the principle of freedom of enterprise, and protections in the Act for employees who do not wish to work if more shops were to open.
  • churches, faith groups, unions, Pacific peoples and some Maori were concerned for employees who would lose a guaranteed day off if more shops were to open and the need to retain time for rest, family, religious and cultural activities in support of the status quo.

Meanwhile the Auckland Chamber of Commerce said council’s Easter Sunday trading vote is a “nanny state decision that doesn’t recognise Auckland’s diversity”.

Michael Barnett, the chamber’s head, said that the issue of Easter Sunday trading should be about freedom of enterprise. “It’s about those who are prepared to go into business with all its risks and those who choose when they will purchase products and services. If people vote with their feet at Easter and stay away, then their point is made.

Under current employment law an employee can decline the opportunity to work and there can be no repercussions, he said. “If this is not working, then fix that not the right to trade,” Mr Barnett said.

“Auckland is a city of diversity – with the exception of one courageous councillor (councillor Desley Simpson (Orākei Ward) ), our council failed to acknowledge this.

“If council were not pandering to the public they would have recognised the stupid anomalies that exist – Parnell can open but not Newmarket; a corner grocer can open but not a supermarket – and fixed the issue not allowed the stupidity to be perpetuated.”