It appeared such a pragmatic move for the Government to let local communities decide whether to relax the laws on Easter Sunday trading. The outcome is already a very mixed bag indeed.

Far North District Council has voted for Easter Sunday trading, as has Kaipara. Whangarei has not, and nor has Auckland.

The governing body of the Auckland Council is scheduled to debate the issue today. It is unclear why it would bother at this juncture as council officers have advised there can be no change before 2018.

As of this week, about a quarter of councils have taken the chance to open on Easter Sunday. Where you find yourself in New Zealand on April 16 is likely to determine whether you can pop out to the shopping strips and malls to browse the shelves. If you are in the major centres Auckland or Whangarei, window shopping will have to do.


At the time of passing, the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Act 2016 was hailed as a breakthrough in common sense.

Until the amendment, the rules were standard, though the exemptions were convoluted.

There were three and a half days a year when almost all shops must be closed under the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990. Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Anzac Day (until 1pm).

The "almost" all was where convolutions nestled. The exemptions were many and varied - convenience stores, service stations, pharmacies, souvenir shops had exemptions. Garden centres could open on Easter Sunday but not Good Friday.

Each year, busloads of tourists and caravanning families rolled into centres to find they could buy an apple tree but not a bag of apples; a postcard but not a stamp; a roll of dog food but not a raw Wagyu steak.

If anything, this Easter Sunday has the potential for greater bewilderment.

If you will, enjoy a stroll around the shops in Rotorua. Even go in and buy things. Drive just under an hour to Tauranga and you'll find the place closed.

As of yesterday, 15 territorial local authorities had adopted Easter Sunday policies. That's about 20 per cent of the 67 TLAs.

Some, such as Auckland, Tauranga and Whangarei, have already indicated they may ease open the doors next year.

One could hope for it all to shake down eventually to a standard policy throughout the country. That may also be a forlorn hope. Councils must review any local policies created for Easter Sunday shop trading no later than five years after adoption.

What cannot be ignored is the historical significance of the day. The number who believe the date holds religious sanctity has decreased, but the devotion of those remaining has not.