27 Mar 2016

Easter bunny could visit supermarkets

6:17 am on 27 March 2016

Today could be the last Easter Sunday where most shops are required to be closed.

Higher prices for fruit, yoghurt and chicken pushed up food prices in December.

Photo: 123rf

A bill now before Parliament would allow councils to make exemptions to the law that requires retailers to close on Easter Sunday.

In submissions to the Commerce Select Committee, both the Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises supermarket chains said they wanted a blanket lifting of the restrictions, rather than leaving it up to councils.

Foodstuffs executive manager Melissa Hodd said local bylaws were a "poor alternative which will significantly increase compliance costs and exacerbate rather than alleviate the current inequalities".

Progressive acting managing director Pat McEntee said the proposal would result in a "patchwork of arrangements" that would be confusing for customers and retailers.

Other retailers agreed, and said allowing local decisions would create a piecemeal situation.

The Food and Grocery Council proposed a reverse option, with trading allowed by all shops on Easter Sunday with councils able to choose to close shops in their area.

"Devolving responsibility to local government will result in confusion and inconvenience for all shoppes," a spokesperson said.

Local Government New Zealand, which speaks on behalf of all councils, backed the local bodies making the decision, but said requiring them to pass bylaws was not the best method.

"In our view all that is required is that a council consults ... on a proposal for an exemption that includes a description or map of the area to which the exemption would apply."

However, union and religious groups said trading on Easter Sunday should remain restricted.

Council of Trade Unions secretary Sam Huggard said there were only three and a half days a year when shops were closed.

"What those days mean for retail workers is guaranteed time off with their family or involvement in their community groups and so on."

The Council of Christian Services said it was important not only as a recognition of the country's Christian heritage, but also to give families time together.

The current law allows for some retailers, such as pharmacies and petrol stations, to open on Easter Sunday.

Exemptions also exist for other retailers in Queenstown and Taupo.

The select committee is due to report back to Parliament in May.