Brian Kelly: Easter trading laws

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I recieved  a Facebook comment from a friend of mine over Easter weekend which made me think.

It related to the Easter trading laws in New Zealand.

It read: "Easter Trading. It's real simple. If you own a shop and you want to make a profit and pay taxes - you should be able to open whenever you want. Case closed."

I don't know about you, but I'm getting sick of this old chestnut turning up every Easter, year-in, year-out and every time it rolls around, some MP throws in the argument for changing the laws, and that's as far as it goes.

According to one business association, shop owners are rubbishing the Easter trading laws, saying they are a farce and need to be changed. How many times have we heard that?

How's this for sheer stupidity.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Over the Easter weekend, the Department of Labour inspectors were out fining retailers in Wanaka who opened but not in Queenstown. The same applied to Rotorua. Those that opened would be fined, but it was okay to open in Taupo.

It even came down to particular items stores wanted to sell. Garden centres were allowed to open on Sunday, but hardware stores selling plants could be fined. It's just crazy.

Last weekend, Wanaka was over-run by about 80,000 visitors for its biannual Warbirds over Wanaka event, yet businesses that wanted to serve the public could only do so by breaking the law.

Exactly the same would have applied to Tauranga and the Mount.

Over Easter, we were invaded by thousands of music fans for the annual jazz festival and, on top of that, the New Zealand Motorhome association held a huge gathering at Bay Park arena that attracted about 1600 mobile homes.

All of those people, with all that money to spend, but nowhere to spend it.

The whole question of prosecuting shop owners who opened against the rules is ridiculous.

Government officials, complete with clip boards, on time-and-a-half were out all over New Zealand searching for shops that were disobeying the Government edict, and were issuing $1000 fines for being naughty.

What a waste of time and taxpayers' money.

The vice-president of the National Distribution Union, Margaret Dornan, looks at it differently and says that the law is critical for workers to have guaranteed time off.

According to Dornan, "You've only got three-and-a-half days a year when shops aren't open and people want to spend time with their families and not work."

However, it appeared that business owners do not agree, with many flaunting the rules and opening despite people wandering around with clipboards.

The rules are so confusing as well - a cafe can open if they have ready-to-eat food, but what is ready-to-eat food? Surely that's what cafes sell.

Apparently the number of shops found to be trading illegally over the weekend and facing prosecution was about 38.

We are operating in a fairly difficult trading market at the moment.

Ask any business owner how things are going and I can almost guarantee the answer will be the same. "It's tough."

When an opportunity comes along to open and you know that there is a large number of people in the region for the weekend, then surely the smart thing to do is open your doors.

If you have a few extra minutes one day this weekend, go and have a read of the Easter trading laws.

They are stupid and archaic.

If you go back to my opening statement. If a shopkeeper wants to work and earn some money to give to the Government, they should be able to.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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