New Zealand prohibits stores from opening on Easter Sunday, Good Friday, half of ANZAC day, and Christmas Day. Unless you're in an exempt category.
Jacqui Dean, MP for Waitaki, which encompasses Wanaka, put up a bill that would have allowed shops in Wanaka to open on Easter Sunday. The Warbirds over Wanaka biannual event most typically runs over Easter. Thousands of tourists come to Wanaka to see the show and are legally prohibited from shopping for two of the days they are there.
Parliament shot down the Bill on first reading after National allowed a conscience vote while Labour, the Greens, and NZ First block-voted against it.
Particularly egregious in the Hansard:
- Rajan Prasad, Labour, questioning whether there's any evidence that the bill would see people spend more. Tens of thousands of people show up in Wanaka for the Warbirds show and are legally banned from shopping, except at those places already exempt.
- Darien Fenton's complaints about Christians who might be forced to work on Easter Sunday. Surely every religion has its own special day. And what of Festivus? And if anybody forces me to work on the Feast of Maximum Occupancy, I'm not going to be happy.
There were more sensible critiques, like that there should be more general legislation allowing individual local councils to make their own decisions about Easter trading. But surely if the people in Waitaki thought this a particularly bad idea, they'd have a really good way of expressing their discontent in 2014: voting out the local MP who pushed through the bill. And surely an MP who wants to be re-elected would have canvassed for local support before introducing the bill.
The trading bans that coincide with Christian holidays seem particularly odd in a country where the Census tells us those reporting no religion outnumber any Christian denomination. When we first arrived here, we were really surprised by the ban: we headed up to Nelson for a holiday over Easter long weekend, booking in at a backpackers and planning on buying groceries as needed. But everything was a ghost town. City centre was empty. We only found out afterwards that it was because the shops were all prohibited from opening.
I can understand wanting to have Easter and such as statutory holiday, where employers must provide employees extra compensation if they want to be open. But complete bans are nonsensical.
If ACT were a liberal party, they'd have had an MP in the House speaking in support of the Bill and demanding it be extended more broadly. Hansard doesn't list John Banks as having voted.