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Easter closures to cost the country

Newmarket Business Association

Wednesday 12 April 2006

Easter closures to cost the country up to $328 million

The statutory shutting down of the retail sector on Good Friday and Easter Sunday could cost the New Zealand economy up to one third of a billion dollars in retail turnover, claims the Newmarket Business Association - advocates for New Zealand's leading retailing district.

The latest Statistics New Zealand retail sales figures show that all industries involved in retailing turned over close to $60 billion in the year ending January 2006. That's $5 billion a month or $164 million a day on average.

"In today's multi-cultural and secular society, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the Government needs to take a serious look at Easter trading, or at the very least consider reinstating a commission to oversee exemptions," said Cameron Brewer, head of the Newmarket Business Association.

"We say leave ANZAC morning alone because it's a treasured memorial day and we strongly believe Christmas Day is forever off limits because that is our number one family day, like Thanksgiving in the United States. However, the compulsory Easter shut-down is starting look a little too punitive for a modern country that prides itself on being an inclusive, free, fair, and open society. I'm surprised our Prime Minister hasn't already moved on this one given her administration's secular drive elsewhere.

"This is not about being money hungry or disrespecting anyone's faith. This is about fairness and having laws that reflect the realities of contemporary life. Spending a few hours with the kids shopping on Broadway on Easter Sunday is arguably more positive for family life than going to a Rolling Stones concert fill of mind-altering substances. However interestingly, the Government forbids the former and encourages the latter. It's time for some consistency.

Mr Brewer said before parliament passed the 1990 Shop Trading Hours Repeal Act, the Department of Labour operated its own shopping trading hours' commission, which would hear and grant dispensations. This body however was extinguished and there remains no avenue under the currently legislation for retailers to apply for exemptions,

"It is crazy that Parnell can trade on Easter Sunday because it got an exemption in 1989, but Newmarket can't. It's equally crazy that visitor destinations like Queenstown and Taupo can trade, but Rotorua, Mt Maunganui and Wanaka can't and desperately want to."

Mr Brewer says it's outrageous that Auckland retailers have had no ability to apply for an exemption ahead of this weekend despite the huge influx of Rolling Stones visitors expected into the city.

"Auckland will be abuzz, but retailers will be forced to sit at home fuming. There will be no shopping experience for the many Australians here for the concert. The place will resemble a ghost town. For goodness sake it's not as though we're talking about anything ungodly. We're talking about shopping - a leading leisure activity for today's Kiwi families and for tourists.

"It's well overdue for parliament to look at this issue. A private member's bill is not good enough. If Wellington can't bring itself to lifting the restrictions outright, it should at the very least consider giving back retailers the ability to apply for exemptions. We want to be able to positively respond when the world's greatest rock in roll band turns up with an entourage of 45,000 people," said Mr Brewer.


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