MPs missed chance to let law reflect reality

It wasn’t about religion.

It wasn’t about families.

Todd McLay’s Easter Trading bill was simply going to mean the law reflects reality in places like Wanaka and Rotorua.

Our Easter Trading law is a dog’s breakfast.

Shops in Queenstown and Taupo, which are judged to be tourist destinations are allowed to trade,  neighbouring towns like Wanaka and Rotorua which have with similar appeal to travellers, are not.

But changes in retail make the law even more absurd. Service stations are allowed to open and sell magazines but a book shop isn’t.

Year after year I’ve seen retailers in Wanaka ignore the law and open. Year after year the Department of Labour stalks them and lays some charges to make an example of them. Last time a Wanaka retailer appeared in court the judge said the law was a nonsense.

Yesterday MPs had a chance to sort out the nonsense.

The bill wasn’t going to unleash commercial mayhem and tear families apart. It was merely going to give local authorities the power to decide if shops could open in their area.

It would have let Queenstown Lakes and Rotorua councils fix local problems but  it was defeated 62-59.

No-one would have been forced to open a business, no-one would have been forced to work in it, no-one would have been forced to patronise it.

It would have just meant the law reflected reality in a few places where retailers choose to open, their staff have the right to work or not and people have the ability to patronise them or not.

Next year the bi-annual Warbirds over Wanaka will bring more than 20,000 people to the town. There will be stalls at the airport where the show takes place, there will be stalls on Pembroke park at the Sunday market, petrol stations, tourist shops and pharmacies will be open and selling things legally. Shops in town will also be open and selling similar, or event he same, things and breaking the law by doing so.

MPs lost an opportunity to back a very moderate Bill which would have meant the law reflects reality.

Instead of which it will be ignored and a law which is regularly ignored in this way is very bad law.

16 Responses to MPs missed chance to let law reflect reality

  1. pdm says:

    I note Bill English voted against it -are some of those tourist places you mentioned in his patch?


  2. homepaddock says:

    pdm – Queenstown is in Clutha Southland but shops there are allowed to open. Wanaka, just over the hill is in Waitaki.


  3. gravedodger says:

    It was a shame that it didn’t progress to select committee where it just might have been possible to bypass the blind support for the status quo from the religious fervor and the socialist dogma that gives rise to such stupidity as we have between Qtown – Naka, Taupo – Rotorua and other whimsical anomalies that arise from the dogs breakfast that the controlling legislation has evolved to today. I didn’t take it that Mr McLay’s P M bill was going to force anyone to trade he seemed to me to just want the freedom to let people through their local council to make that decision. Perhaps he erred in allowing that control to be devolved and should have hit it head on with a legislative move to bring some order and reason to the situation with a clean slate action.


  4. Neil says:

    Why would Bill English vote against it ? I find that amazing and very disappointing.
    People don’t have to shop on an Easter Sunday. People can’t be forced to work on a day like this.
    If this is the attitude of the National party leadership area then I think they need to think again.Freedom of choice is preferable to the nanny state and a few whims of leaders who come and go !!


  5. Andrei says:

    It is sad really that we are having this debate at all.

    Easter Sunday is the holiest day on the Christian calendar.

    Obviously NZ is post Christian and there is a significant hostility to Christianity especially amongst the elite and it is that hostility that is driving this.

    Gee – Two and a half days a year are theoretically shopping free – two Christian Holidays and a half day to honor the war dead.

    But that is our heritage and that isn’t valued any more.

    Strangely enough as an Eastern Christian my Easter Sunday usually doesn’t co-incide with the usual date set aside for it in New Zealand so religiously this debate is irrelevant to me.

    Bill English voted against it because he is a Catholic Neil. And as such he sees the real agenda behind it.

    After all you can only spend your money once. Being able to spend it on Easter Sunday does not give it greater value than it would have on Easter Saturday or Monday.


  6. Johnnieboy says:

    Neil, I think you’re missing the point that Easter trading laws pre-date nanny state, and came from a time when people had some perspective about how important work and money was. It was religiously motivated, and equally a pragmatic attitude by both secular and religious folk in that people realised that there was something more important in life than work.

    These days, we have lost that, and have also lost any respect for the benefits of having a life outside work. As someone said on TVNZ breakfast this morning, “When I was in Spain, I used to get annoyed that shops weren’t open on a Sunday, and then I realised that I could get a life”.

    Yet we push to make sure that we have eliminated the last 3 days of public holiday on the calendar. Sounds like it would be better to fight tooth and nail to get as much holiday as you could in our work-crazed culture, regardless of the religious motivations behind it, or the fallout to a minority of tourism operators.


  7. homepaddock says:

    Andrei is right about Bill. It was a conscience vote and Bill followed his conscience, I have no problem with that.

    But I don’t think the bill was anti-Christian, it was merely an attempt to tidy up a mess.


  8. gravedodger says:

    Andrei I have total respect for your obviously strongly held view but as I see it Mr McClay was not interfering with your rights. As you pointed out the day you celebrate easter sunday does not coincide with the day allocated in this country. Yes it is only three and a half days a year but tell that to the anguished parent who wants to replace the broken inhaler or just buy something from the closed shop on the one day they are in Wanaka when if they had been just over the Crown Range would have been possible in Queenstown. It is all a total mess and when tidied up most will wonder what was the problem.
    I do lament the loss of spiritual values in society but IMHO it is personal thing and best left there


  9. Andrei says:


    Appealing to hypotheticals involving children and broken inhalers just wont cut it. Emergency medicine is always available.

    Our faith, particularly the Eastern branch to which I belong has withstood a long tradition of hostility from the authorities starting with the Romans thru the Arabs and Turks followed by the communists. Sometimes there was overt persecution but more usually it was a subtle undermining of the Church – like Christmas being reworked as New Years day as happened in the Soviet Union or major secular public events being timed to coincide with religious holidays.

    Its still happening today – Sunday trading in general and now Easter Sunday trading are just New Zealands version mild in comparison to what has happened in the past. If New Zealanders as a whole didn’t have this heritage there would be no beef but it is your heritage and past that is being obliterated without you even realizing it. And it is being replaced because nature abhors a vacuum and it is not too hard to see what is replacing it and the consequences of that.


    But I don’t think the bill was anti-Christian, it was merely an attempt to tidy up a mess.

    Wasn’t the mess created in the first place when dispensations to the trading rules for Easter Sunday were created for certain types of shops in some areas?


  10. gravedodger says:

    Yes Andrei I accept where you live, emergency medical assistance is available, however where I live I am part of it. To respond to the 111 call that will follow a situation that I portrayed, it will involve 5 volunteers (that seems to be the number on call via pagers to be reasonably certain we will have 2 to man the truck) and if communications deem it necessary a paid prime Dr to respond to a situation that having the pharmacy open may have avoided. We don’t have the luxury of a shift system due to call numbers and volly numbers so avoidable situations are accepted as desirable by our dedicated bunch.
    However we are getting way off topic as I understand that Mr McClay’s bill was a very limited attempt at tidying up a ludicrous mess and not an attempt, as is being portrayed by those opposed, to have complete freedom to trade on easter sunday. Here where I live the pharmacy is owner operated and IMHO it is HIS decision whether he trades or not on any day of the year just as it would be your choice to buy from him or not.


  11. Neil says:

    Regardless of what some of the supporters of the current jack-ass law I still believe that the decision yesterday was a disaster.It goes against individual choice when the state makes this edict. Surely the idea that councils make the decision is the right way to go.They have more of an idea of the matter than MP’s who live in the constituency maybe for a month every year. Surely MP’s conscience votes should consider wider individual rights not just theirs.
    Here in my home town it wouldn’t be a goer. But why Queenstown not Wanaka ? Why Taupo and not Rotorua ?
    Catholic,Baptist,Anglican etc why should those MP’s inflict this on the population from their protected positions.Labour is even worse – they are double faced.
    Remember, 30 years ago we couldn’t shop in general shops on a Saturday. Society has changed.
    Why not just let people(individuals) make their own mind up ? Why have the state meddling in it ? Can’t individuals be trusted ?


  12. dave says:

    The bill didn’t tidy up a mess. What is needed is to make Easter Sunday a public holiday. THEN we can squibble about whether we can work or not on that day.


  13. gravedodger says:

    @ dave yeah then as easter Sunday will in all liklyhood be at the weekend we will observe the stat hol on easter Tuesday ROTFL.


  14. homepaddock says:

    Andrei – you are right that pharmacies can open anyway.
    Once they’re open in Wanaka they can sell all sorts of non-emergency things like make up which other shops can’t because they don’t also sell medicine; but similar shops just over the hill in Queenstown can open.

    A day is holy not by what the state tells us we can or can’t do, but what we choose to do ourselves.

    Dave – making it a public holiday won’t in itself change anything, shops can open on all but 2 1/2 of the existing public holidays.

    We already have four weeks holiday and 11 other days which are statutory holidays. Which of those would you like to swap for making Easter Sunday a public holiday?

    Gravedodger – very good point. If the stat holiday was Sunday the day off would be Tuesday.


  15. Andrei says:

    I can’t imagine why but this little refrain keeps running through my mind

    “Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
    They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”


  16. Johnnieboy says:

    People arguing in favour of the free-choice argument are really failing to acknowledge the power inequality that exists between employer and employee.

    If the local council decides that a sector of workers is allowed to work during a public holiday, the employees in that industry will not be able to resist their employee’s request to work on that day without damaging their relationship with their boss, and bringing on a host of negative consequences as well, such as lost access to overtime shifts, lost flexibility when negotiating for leave with the boss, and lost pay raises.

    Its a no-brainer why it’s a good thing to keep things as they are.


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