In the end, a desire to preserve community and family time won out.

Shops will remained closed on Easter Sundays with Whanganui District councillors voting against adopting an Easter Sunday trading policy.

Just three councillors - Graeme Young, Charlie Anderson and Helen Craig - voted in favour of allowing shops to open.

Read more: Councillors to decide on Easter Sunday trading


Mrs Craig argued that rules were different in each district and certain types of shops were allowed to open anyway.

"If you've got a service station selling everything from sliced cheese to kids' strollers you can be open. The lines are blurring ... I think we've got to stop this anomaly."

For councillor Charlie Anderson it was down to personal choice.

"It's a matter of choice whether you open or not and it's a matter of choice if you go shopping or not. If it's a choice, no one is forcing Christians to go to Mitre 10."

However a majority of councillors sided with the 91 per cent of public submissions opposing Easter Sunday trading. Deputy mayor Jenny Duncan said that was too hard to ignore.

"For us to change that we need a far greater groundswell of support and we don't have that support in our community, it's simply not there," she said.

It was nice to have a few days' break from retail, she said. "When every day is the same, where is the colour in society?"

Josh Chandulal-Mackay said no one would be worse off because of the council's decision.

"If we adopt it there's no going back. There's going to be no introduction of a day that's free of consumerism."

Mayor Hamish McDouall said it was a polarising issue but supported the status quo.

"You either strongly disagree or strongly agree so this is not an easy decision because the committee will be disappointing members of the community either way," he said.

"It's really hard at the moment for families to find time ... because this generation is working longer hours for less pay than the previous generation and I really like the fact that on a couple of days a year people don't have to go to work."

Councillor Alan Taylor was the most vocal on the council was having to make a decision at all and abstained from the vote saying he was uncomfortable making a decision "with my prejudices".

By legislation trading is restricted on Easter Sundays but since 2016 councils have had the ability to introduce local policy to allow all shops to open across an entire district or in certain areas.

"I think we as a council could stand out and say back to Wellington 'You need to make this decision and stop this kind of crap that divides the nation," Mr Taylor said.

"Why are you asking us, in a cop-out, that communities can make their own decision because they are too gutless to make a decision for the entire country."