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Easter trading laws a tricky issue, says PM

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key. Pic: NZPA
John Key. Pic: NZPA

Wellington, April 6 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key says he agrees Easter trading laws are a shambles and would like to see them liberalised.

There again appeared to be grey areas around which retailers could and could not trade legally on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, along with inconsistencies around which towns were allowed to trade, and why.

Auckland's Newmarket Business Association is lobbying to have laws changed so confusion is eliminated.

Chief executive Cameron Brewer said there was more confusion and frustration at the weekend than ever before around Easter trading laws. "It can't go on any longer," he said.

Mr Brewer said "confusion reigned high" as Wanaka and Rotorua retailers were banned from trading while Queenstown and Taupo were not.

There was also confusion around licensed premises, cafes, gardening and hardware stores.

"Cafes can open if they have ready-to-eat food, but what is ready-to-eat food? More and more hardware stores, most of which have big gardening departments, are opening and facing $1000 fines, even though gardening shops can legally open on Easter Sunday."

Mr Key said he agreed the situation was "a mess", and the problem was that Easter Trading laws were subject to a conscience vote in Parliament, meaning MPs voted differently, often according to what their own electorates wanted.

"My own personal view is that there should be relaxation of those laws," he told Newstalk ZB this morning. "I've always voted to liberalise trading on those appropriate days, and the reason for that is while I recognise some people would then be required to go out and work, there are a lot of people who actually want to go out and work on those days."

Mr Key said a lot of businesses were family run and it could potentially be a good time to make money.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labour said the number of shops found to be trading illegally over the break appeared to be similar to last year.

The department will consider the prosecution of 38 retailers after 19 were caught trading on Good Friday and another 19 on Easter Sunday.

A department spokesman said each case needed to be investigated further to consider whether exemptions could be applied.

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