The drought has managed to do what the law could not - dampen Easter trading at garden centres.
Oderings Nurseries Upper Hutt store manager Matthew Morgan said trading yesterday was steady, rather than the usual Easter rush.
The outdoor watering ban imposed on the Wellington region after the big dry had been "a real blow" to garden centres, he said. "Why buy something if you can't water it?"
Customers yesterday were buying up on shrubs or plants that did not need water. "So it will be a bit of a boost."
The Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal Act 1990 specifies that most shops must close on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Exemptions include dairies, service stations and pharmacies, and garden centres opening on Easter Sunday.
Retailers can be fined $1000 for each outlet for breaching the law, plus court costs. But many are prepared to face the penalties because they can make much more money by trading.
Twenty-three warning letters were sent out to traders by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment ahead of Easter.
Oderings garden centre director Darryn Odering paid $14,000 in fines last year, but again opened all 11 stores nationally this Easter, as they had done since 1972.
Last year the ministry, which oversees the act, gained 30 convictions for breaches over Easter Weekend.
Retailers remain opposed to the law, which they say is outdated.
But while people conserving water was less pleasant for garden centres, it was welcome news for the region's water watchdogs.
Water usage dropped to a record low on Thursday, with 119 million litres used - 11 million litres below the target of 130m per day, and the lowest usage since water restrictions came into force.
Greater Wellington Regional Council yesterday said the water situation was precarious, but rivers had not fallen as fast as predicted last week.
Water supply marketing team leader Andrew Samuel said the storage lake at Te Marua was full, at about 1900 million litres, and ready to be used if needed.
However, the level of the Hutt River was not as low as forecasts had suggested, which meant the city supply could still be drawn from it.
Four days of rain have been forecast from Thursday, April 4, but whether it will prove a drought-breaker remains to be seen.
Continued focus on saving water has seen the city meet its 130 million litres per day target.
- © Fairfax NZ News