Easter trading legislation in New Zealand has been out of sync since July 1990, as far as Wanaka is concerned, says Wanaka Chamber of Commerce spokesman Alistair King.

King said the Wanaka Chamber had been banging its head against the wall until now - since the Governement has proposed plans to relax Easter trading legislation, allowing councils to permit trading on specific public holidays.

"We've been working for years with MPs to get this sorted out and really have been banging our heads against the wall until now with Michael Woodhouse's potential new legislation."

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He said some shops in Wanaka were open over the Easter holiday as they couldn't afford not to be open.

"There were close to 50,000 people streaming though Wanaka over the long weekend and days like Sunday when there are that many people here, retailers just can't afford not to be open," he said.

"There is such a low rate of unemployment here in Wanaka that people are desperate to work and over those periods of time they can be quite profitable for employees and employers."

Rotorua Chamber of Commerce Darrin Walsh said he faces the same issues as Wanaka.

"Over the Easter weekend we get 35,000 additional people coming through Rotorua per day and again our retailers can't open," he said

"Taupo is open just down the road but Rotorua isn't. Picton can open Friday and Sunday because they had a cruise ship in but we can't open with our 35,000 additional visitors."

Walsh said he didn't think the existing rules were policed as they had been in the past.

"There are certainly a number [of retailers] that do flout it."


Proposed amendments to the Shop Trading Hours Repeal Act would enable local councils to allow trading on specific public holidays - although this is not expected to be in place until Easter next year.

"At the end of the day, you probably don't want 69 different councils making 69 different decisions so perhaps there needs to be some cohesion amongst tourist towns or tourist councils," Walsh said

He said the Chamber would be meeting with Michael Woodhouse in two weeks time to discuss what could be done.

A prominent Auckland Councillor has launched an assault on plans to shunt responsibility for Easter Trading onto local bodies.

Cameron Brewer wants Parliament to pave the way for tourist areas to open up.

The Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill would allow councils to pass their own bylaws on Easter trading.

But Brewer said the Government should take another look at which areas have exemptions, especially tourist towns.

"It's crazy that Taupo can open but Rotorua can't. It's crazy that Queenstown can open but Wanaka can't".

Brewer said throwing it over to councils up and down the country to decide, won't solve anything.

Retail NZ's general manager of public affairs Greg Harford earlier this month put a submission to the Government to amend the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill which would allow councils to pass bylaws to allow trading on Easter Sunday and give shops the green light to open right across New Zealand.

- with additional reporting from Hawke's Bay Today, Bay of Plenty Times.