There's still a long way to go before Rotorua businesses can open on Easter Sunday, but the district's seven mayoral candidates are almost unanimous in their support of the idea.
The Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill will soon become law after passing its third reading in Parliament this week and will allow local councils to create policies to enable Easter Sunday trading.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she had been battling for years to have the law changed and it had the potential to provide a big boost for Rotorua businesses.
"This will finally put Rotorua on a level playing field with other key visitor destinations," she said.
"Rotorua needs to be open for business to achieve its economic growth aspirations and this bill, which will enable councils to strike their own by-law regarding Easter Sunday trading, gives us the mechanism to decide for ourselves."
She and Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Darrin Walsh presented submissions to a select committee earlier this year, speaking in support of the Bill.
"Easter trading will provide a huge economic boost for Rotorua - it's one of our busiest weekends of the year and entrepreneurs will see this as a chance to make Rotorua a more vibrant place.
"Workers will be protected - they'll have the right to refuse to work Easter Sunday."
Mrs Chadwick made two unsuccessful attempts to change Easter trading laws when she was an MP and current Rotorua MP Todd McClay's attempt in 2009 was also unsuccessful with MPs not prepared to vote against their party lines.
She said it had been a major frustration for decades Rotorua did not have the same Easter trading opportunities as those with exemptions, such as Taupo and Queenstown.
"Councils will now be able to work with their local businesses and communities to make decisions that are right for them," she said.
"It's baffling for international visitors to come to an international tourist destination and find our doors closed."
Inner City Focus Group spokesman Mike Steiner said he also supported the move.
"It allows businesses to do what they want to do. Personally, I may not open on a Sunday over Easter, but I could soon have the opportunity to do so.
"It was a silly anomaly and it's great to have it clarified and cleaned up, it's certainly what Rotorua needs."
But, it will be up to the incoming council to decide whether Rotorua will get Easter Sunday trading.
The council would need to go through a consultation process before any local policies were made.
But, in 2014 the council commissioned an independent survey that revealed overwhelming support for Easter trading with 72 per cent of people surveyed saying they supported trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday with 15 per cent wanting trading on Easter Sunday only.
Only 18 per cent did not support Easter trading at all.
We asked Rotorua's six other mayoral candidates if they would support allowing businesses to open on Easter Sunday.
Reynold Macpherson: Yes, but with conditions. My preliminary position on Easter Sunday trading is to consult on giving the discretion back to owners/managers/operators to trade if they wish.
RangiMarie Kingi: Yes to businesses opening. No to council control to dictate. This is a multi-cultural mix of beliefs, not everyone supports British Christianity holidays. It's a reminder of Maori land confiscations for church building celebrations.
John Rakei-Clark: Yes. Because it's the responsibility of the council to make sure that all businesses have the option of whether to open or not.
Mark Gould: Yes. But it will up to the next council to accept or decline. In the past we have lost too much business to other centres. It's come about 15 years too late.
Rob Kent: Yes. I support freedom of choice. It was ludicrous that Rotorua was denied Easter trading unlike Taupo and Queenstown. There are ample safeguards in the new legislation for employees that do not wish to work for whatever reason.
Frances Louis: Yes. Rotorua is a tourist town and many a time I have been asked by visitors to direct them to a business, which is closed. Rotorua has more to offer the tourists and visitors than Taupo or Tauranga does, let's open for the Easter bunny, or he will hop to Tauranga and Taupo and take his wallet with him.
Easter Sunday trading - the next steps
- Local authorities will be able to create local policies to allow shop trading in defined areas on Easter Sunday.
- The changes will also clarify that the ability to refuse to work on Easter Sunday is extended to all shop employees.
- A "right to refuse" provision will allow employers and employees to negotiate freely, and gives all shop employees the ability to refuse to work on Easter Sunday without any repercussions.
- Councils need to consult their communities on any proposed local policy
- Consultation will be by way of the "Special Consultative Procedure" which involves calling for submissions and holding hearings.
- Councils will have to review their local policy no later than five years after adopting it.