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Caritas supports clergy in opposing Easter Trading

Caritas supports Dunedin Bishop and clergy in opposing Easter Trading

Extending Easter trading hours for districts covered by the Waitaki electorate would be a step towards losing all Easter trading restrictions, says Caritas, the Catholic agency for justice, peace and development.

“We support the Bishop of Dunedin Diocese, Bishop Colin Campbell, and his clergy in affected parishes in the area, in their opposition to the latest attempt to change Easter trading hours,” says Caritas CEO Michael Smith.

Caritas is writing to all members of Parliament asking them to use their conscience votes to oppose Jacqui Dean’s Shop Hours Act Repeal (Waitaki Easter Trading) Amendment Bill, expected to have its first reading on Wednesday. Only last Christmas, Caritas wrote to MPs when Roger McClay’s private member’s Easter Trading Bill came before Parliament and was defeated at the first reading.

Caritas is asking Members of Parliament to maintain their tradition of rejecting further changes to Easter trading. The Catholic agency recognises that there are inconsistencies in the current exemptions to Easter Trading, and has made submissions on the subject during the numerous reviews and Private Member’s Bills which have unsuccessfully re-opened the debate 10 times in the past 20 years.

“However, we cannot see that large parts of the South Island, including the whole of the territories covered by the Central Otago District Council, MacKenzie District Council, Queenstown-Lakes District Council, Timaru District Council, Waimate District Council and Waitaki District Council are such significant tourism targets that retail workers throughout this entire area must give up their right to family and community time,” says Mr Smith.

He said it was evident that this regional proposal is seen as an opportunity to extend Easter trading in other parts of the country. “It is obvious that if this Bill should succeed, some members of the business and political communities in Rotorua, Tauranga and Auckland are simply waiting to follow that example.”

Mr Smith said it was time to consider removing the current exemptions for Queenstown, Taupo and Parnell, which give an unfair market advantage to some retailers at Easter. “The exemptions have always been problematic, and create a constant and unrealistic pressure for extensions,” says Mr Smith.

“Churches, unions and the wider community have been forced over and over to defend the rare collective opportunities for rest in the three and a half shop-free days at Easter, Christmas and ANZAC Day. This is despite the clear indications through numerous conscience votes that Members of Parliament have consistently agreed that 361½ shopping days per year are adequate.”

Mr Smith noted that while Easter holidays have their origins in Christian festivals, which remain significant days for many New Zealanders, Catholic opposition to liberalising Easter trading is not simply based on religious traditions. “These days have become important times of family and school reunions, unveilings, hui, sports tournaments, festivals and other community events, all of which would be put at risk by an extension of shop trading.”

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.


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