By Tom Taylor of RNZ
On a regular Sunday, Auckland’s shopping precincts are buzzing with residents and visitors trawling the stores.
But not Easter Sunday - it’s one of just three-and-a-half days a year, along with Good Friday, Christmas Day, and half of Anzac Day, where trading is restricted.
It means unless a business meets specific criteria, it is not going to open its doors.
Some shops are allowed to open throughout the weekend, while others can only operate on Easter Sunday but not Friday.
The rules depend on where you are in New Zealand.
So, if you find yourself wondering every year what is open on Easter weekend, you’re not alone.
While petrol stations, dairies, cafes, and restaurants can open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, supermarkets and department stores cannot.
Among the few exemptions to the rule are garden centres.
Under a 2001 amendment to the Shop Trading Hours Act, they could open on Easter Sunday, but not Good Friday.
Kings Plant Barn St Luke’s manager Simon Andrews was murky on the details of how this exemption came about.
But he said it made sense, both for seasonal and social reasons.
“It’s the right time to plant, there’s going to be water in the ground, it’s still warm enough for [the plants] to get going, and it’s a family industry - it’s a family thing to do,” Andrews said.
“If you’re getting kids involved as well, I think it’s just a fantastic thing.”
In the past, some Plant Barns chose to open on Good Friday, risking fines of up to $1000.
Last year, the Labour Inspectorate only inspected two businesses from the 17 complaints it received, issuing a total of $1500 in fines.
In 2021, all 19 complaints received were assessed, resulting in two prosecutions.
Despite the low number of prosecutions, Andrews said Plant Barn would not be taking the chance this year.
“We’re not open Good Friday; we’re not open half of Anzac Day.
“We’ve picked the times we’re allowed to be open and that’s what we’ve chosen.”
In 2017, local councils got to decide for themselves whether shops in their areas could open on Easter Sunday.
Most shops on Auckland’s Parnell Road are able to open on Easter Sunday due to a special exemption issued in 1989.
Across New Zealand, 44 councils put in place policies allowing for just that.
But Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and some other large cities, had not done so yet, meaning about two-thirds of the population were still bound by the old rules.
Adding to the confusion was the fact that some specific areas within cities or districts had their own set of rules.
On Auckland’s Parnell Road, for example, all manner of shops (apart from off-licences covered by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act) were able to open on Easter Sunday, due to a special exemption issued in 1989.
To Aucklander Dan Clark, this made no sense.
“I think it’s unfair, to be honest.
“Every shop should have its own choice and every business should have its own choice.
“Everyone’s got to pay rent as well - the shops that are closed still have to pay rent on those days.”
Among the viaduct’s bars and restaurants, people had mixed views on what Easter should be about.
“Easter for me has always been family time,” one woman said.
“I just wish everyone could stay and enjoy each other.”
“I think they should have the choice,” a man said.
“If they want to work, they should work. Having the choice is better.”
Venues selling alcohol had additional requirements over the weekend under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.
People could not buy alcohol on Good Friday or Easter Sunday unless they were at a venue for the purposes of dining.
At restaurants like Oyster and Chop, business manager Richard Pepper said the rule made little difference.
“It doesn’t really affect our core business, which obviously is food accentuated with beverage, rather than being beverage-driven,” he said.
But the restaurant was unable to deliver certain promotions like its Oyster Happy Hour, which would be too focused on drinking.
“Obviously our bar trade is down a little bit, but on the flipside, we find that our dining trade often increases.
“If people can’t come in to [just] have a drink, they’ll come in and have dinner and a drink, or lunch and a drink.
“In some ways, the negative effect on casual trade has a positive effect on spend per head.”
Around the corner at cocktail bar The Parasol and Swing, it was a slightly different story.
Bar manager Callum Ireland said punters were often more than a little confused when it came to the weekend’s rules.
“You’re just turning people away: ‘Oh, can we come and have a drink?’
“’No, you can’t, not unless you go and buy all this food with it as well.’
“’Oh, but we were just out for lunch.’
“’Yeah, you should have stayed there, because now that you’ve come here, I can’t serve you.’
“It’s frustrating; it’s very frustrating.”
Labour Inspectorate regional manager David Milne said that in New Zealand, every shop had to remain closed before 1pm on Anzac Day, and all day on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Christmas Day under the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990.
However, trading on Easter Sunday was allowed under the Act if there was an area exemption in place or it was allowed by local territorial authorities.
“It is important for workers to know they are able to refuse to work Easter Sunday, and it is important that employers don’t take advantage,” Milne said.
Farmers and craft market stalls could open, but only within the premises of an exhibition or show devoted primarily to agriculture, arts, industry, or science, he said.
“The goods sold must be connected to that exhibition - for example, arts and crafts at an arts and crafts show.”
An Auckland Council spokesperson said the council had not reviewed its Easter trading arrangements since 2017, and currently had no plans to review them.
What can open on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday:
- Petrol stations
- Duty-free stores
- Shops providing services like hairdressers
- Real estate agencies
- Souvenir shops
- Some shops at public transport terminals
- Some shops at exhibitions, shows, or markets
- Garden centres (only on Easter Sunday)