Easter trading laws in Horowhenua have been changed, after the council voted to allow shops and businesses to open on Easter Sunday.

Previously, retailers ran the risk of a fine for trading on the Christian holiday, but now they will have the choice to open if they want to.

Councillors were divided on the topic, with seven voting for the change permitting trading, and three, including mayor Michael Feyen, voting against.

Deputy mayor Wayne Bishop, who is involved with the Salvation Army Christian organisation, said he was very concerned over the message it would send if trading was allowed, and said it would mean "losing a third of the time that is currently sacred."

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"Do we as a nation not hold anything sacred any more?" he said.

"Where is this going to end?"

Councillor Pirihira Tukapua also opposed the change, claiming numbers of people identifying as Christians in New Zealand were increasing.

She said businesses would be more "blessed" financially by honouring the day and not trading.

However, other councillors said it was important businesses could have the choice to open, and that current employment legislation protected employees enough, as they could not be forced to work.

Hearing committee chair councillor Jo Mason said a decision that was right for the local district had been sought, and one of the main things had been to remove the uncertainty that currently exists about Easter Sunday trading.

"It doesn't make it compulsory to open but it gives retailers the choice," she said.

A Hearings Committee report to Council said factors taken into consideration included the fact that allowing trading would not erode workers' rights, but would provide clarity and choice, and that good employers would look after their staff.

The report also said the change would allow business owners to capitalise on the influx of visitors to the district's beach areas over Christmas, New Year and other long weekends.

Councillor Bernie Wanden, who did not vote as he had submitted on the issue, said common sense told him that the local economy should be encouraged, not have barriers put in the way.