Allison is a digital reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times

Retailers favour Easter trading

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The debate over trading laws has cracked open again with Tauranga retailers on the side of change.

Last year, the Government proposed a law change to allow local councils the right to decide whether stores in their area could trade on Easter Sunday, which is now being discussed by Parliament's commerce committee.

Read more: Tauranga pupils back call for sugar tax on fizzies

The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend spoke to a handful of retailers in Tauranga, Papamoa and the Mount, and the frustration at having to remain closed was clear.

Tango Shoes owner Melanie Dowling said stores should be allowed to open but the decision should not be left to council.

"It should be a national standard and up to individual businesses whether they open on Easter Sunday."

She said it was the responsibility of holiday destinations to provide services and no one wanted to go on holiday if everywhere was shut. "It's our responsibility to provide that service; we're not a destination otherwise."

Ms Dowling said trade was trade, whether hospitality, accommodation or retail.

"You don't kick everyone out of their hotel rooms on Sunday and say 'I'm sorry but we're not allowed to trade today'."

She said her store had never traded on Good Friday because it was too risky, but there had been times when they opened on Sunday.

Ms Dowling said, if her employees did not want to work and get time and a half, she would never force them.

It should be a national standard and up to individual businesses whether they open on Easter Sunday.
Melanie Dowling, owner of Tango's Shoes

Tres Chic owner Melanie MacDougall said, if she had the choice, she would open on Easter Sunday, saying it made good business sense to be able to open, after all "not everyone likes going to the beach ... and I still have to pay rent that week".

She acknowledged the religious aspect of the holiday and said being allowed to open on Sunday but leaving Good Friday closed was fair.

Two cruise ships were due to berth on Easter Sunday, which was less than ideal, said Tourism Bay of Plenty marketing and communications Kristin Dunne.

She said they had received complaints before from passengers when shops were shut in town, though this was the first time ships were coming in on Easter Sunday.

"We will be letting passengers know they can expect closures around town and encourage them to instead take a local tour or wander around Mauao or the beach."

Ms Dunne said shops being closed definitely impacted visitors' experiences, as one of the beauties of the Mount was being able to go from "beach to boutique".

"But as it's Easter we don't have a choice and neither do retailers."

However, she said, if other tourist destinations had exemptions it was worth looking into. "We're a big enough tourism destination, even without the cruise ships, so we have grounds to be just as active [on Easter] as Taupo and Queenstown."

Papamoa Plaza centre manager David Hill said there should be no restrictions.

Papamoa Plaza centre manager David Hill.
Papamoa Plaza centre manager David Hill.

"For shops to be shut is disrespectful to tourists and holidaymakers, and locals as well. Putting it into the hands of council is half a solution as it is decided by whoever happens to be on council at the time. It is essential the consumer decides; if they want to shop they will, if they don't they won't," Mr Hill said.

It would be sensible for the decision to be made at a local level allowing our businesses to have the choice to open, especially when there is a supporting event of the size and scale of the Jazz Festival to support them.
Stuart Crosby, Tauranga mayor

He said the compulsory shutting actually makes life more stressful for retail workers after the closure as it gets so busy.

Downtown Tauranga manager Sally Cooke said that restrictions in Tauranga had affected the image and ambience of the city, especially at a time when visitor attraction was at a peak.

"It would be sensible for the decision to be made at a local level allowing our businesses to have the choice to open, especially when there is a supporting event of the size and scale of the Jazz Festival to support them."

Kiwiana Souvenirs in Mount Maunganui was allowed to open but does so only on Easter Sunday, remaining closed on Good Friday out of respect.

But, owner Ian New said, if opening on Sunday "is good enough for one it should be good enough for all".

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby backed the move to devolve decision making to individual councils, saying it would allow Tauranga City Council to engage with the community on the issue.

The downside was that there could be inconsistencies around New Zealand depending on how each area viewed trading on Easter Sunday.

He said Tauranga was a tourist town and Easter, with the Jazz Festival, was one of its biggest weekends. Quizzed whether Tauranga's reputation as New Zealand's Bible belt might have an influence, he said it may be an issue the Christian fraternity speaks out on.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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