- Working group recommends easing Easter Sunday trading rules -
A working group examining inconsistencies in shop trading hours legislation
has recommended that Parliament ease Easter Sunday trading restrictions.
But there was little public support for change on Christmas Day, Good Friday or ANZAC Day, the five-person group chaired by Wellington lawyer Peter Chemis said in a report released today.
The group was set up to help and advise Parliament`s commerce committee, which is considering the Shop Trading Hours (Abolition of Restrictions) Bill.
The committee has called for public submissions on the working group`s report, Labour Minister Margaret Wilson said.
Trading restrictions are imposed only on Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and ANZAC Day morning, with exemptions for some goods regarded as essential provisions.
The report recommended either allowing full scale Easter Sunday trading, or having local authorities use by-laws to exempt shops, groups of shops, or all shops in their area.
Both proposals should carry strong employee protections, the group said.
It noted the Council of Trade Unions opposed in principle "any" further liberalisation of shop trading hours.
Christmas Day was of national and religious importance, the report said.
Continued Christmas shop trading restrictions had wide public support "with little or no reported demand for trading on that day".
"ANZAC Day is also widely regarded as important by the majority of New Zealanders and there is general compliance amongst retailers with the present... restrictions," the report said.
There was "considerable agitation" among retailers that trading was restricted for two of the four days over the Easter weekend, it said.
Garden centres and hardware stores have, in particular, pushed for easing of current restrictions.
Tourist areas had also applied pressure "given reported demand for access to shops for the travelling public" over the Easter weekend.
One inconsistency in current legislation is shops are able to open in some tourist areas, but not in others, on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The two options for change proposed were founded on the group`s assessment Easter Sunday "is the main focus for any change, and on the need to balance the social, community, commercial and employee interests involved", the report said.
"On balance, we consider that our proposals will provide the committee and Parliament with a good basis for arriving at a practical and generally acceptable solution to this issue," Mr Chemis said in a letter to Ms Wilson.
Several attempts to tidy up the law have faltered in recent years.
In May 2001, ACT MP Rodney Hide`s bill to allow shops to open on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day was sent to the commerce committee for consideration.
Proposals in the bill were defeated through a series of conscience votes in Parliament, effectively killing it.
However, when it came up for its final reading stage in the House last year, MPs voted to send it back to the committee, where it can be given further consideration.
The Shop Trading Hours (Abolition of Restrictions) Bill has had a tedious process through Parliament.
It was introduced in 1999 and went to the commerce committee, which did not get round to hearing public submissions on it.
It then went back into the debating chamber, where MPs voted heavily against changing shopping restrictions.
Other members of the group, which also considered the Hide legislation, were Consumer`s Institute chief executive David Russell, Cliff Daly of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Judy Attenberger of the National Distribution Union, and David Stewart of Local Government New Zealand.
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