Napier will be open for business on Easter Sunday, a change decided by a close vote in a Napier City Council meeting yesterday.
Councillors voted 5-6 to adopt the Local Easter Trading Policy, which means retailers can choose to open on that day.
Recent changes to the Shop Trading Hours Act gave local councils the option to adopt such a policy. At present retailers are bound by legislation that stipulates shops must be closed on Easter Sunday unless exempt.
Although the policy was adopted, councillors and submitters spoke against the policy at the meeting, saying it would affect time spent with family, place pressure on retailers, and impact on workers.
As well as stating the report before council was biased, submitter and former Napier City Councillor Robin Gwynn said: "When we only have three-and-a-half break days in the year when people and families can get together, to steal one and give it to the retailers who already have 361-and-a-half days when they can do just as they please is unreasonable."
Mayor Bill Dalton reminded councillors this was "a conscience decision", which council officers could not make a definite recommendation on.
Instead they could recommend an approach where the decision to open would be up to each business to determine and for each individual to determine whether they wanted to visit the businesses that were open.
Councillor Kirsten Wise spoke in support of the policy, having contact with retailers during her job as an accountant.
"I have great sympathy for those who are against this change, however I feel there are retailers who would opt not to open if that's their personal choice," she said.
"I think as a council we need to support our local retailers if this is something they would like to do."
But Councillor Maxine Boag said the consultation process was flawed, citing a lack of consultation with churches.
"If this becomes the bylaw there'll be a huge pressure for [retailers] to open whether they want to or not in terms of competitive pressure," she said, adding Easter was an opportune time to enjoy the attractions offered in Napier.
A paper before council stated surveys indicated a majority felt retailers should be given the choice to open on Easter Sunday, while the 42 submissions received on the policy were split equally in favour and against.
Support centred on Napier being a tourist destination that should be "open for business" on one of the busiest tourist weekends. However, those opposed argued allowing shops to trade would come at a social cost to families and communities which outweighed any economic benefits.
It was expected that if businesses chose to open, there was the potential for economic benefits. The paper noted while these benefits were difficult to quantify at this time, they would be likely to increase over time as tourism and the region grew.
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