MPs vote down Easter trading bill

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 10:05 28/06/2012

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Labour is calling on National to stop its crusade to relax Easter trading laws after legislation was rejected by Parliament for at least the 11th time.

Last night Parliament voted down a bill by National MP for Waitaki Jacqui Dean to open shops on Easter Sunday in Wanaka by 49 votes to 70.

Decisions on Easter issues are a conscience vote and the Bill was opposed by Labour, Greens, NZ First and Maori Party MPs, as well as religious and conservative National MPs.

Labour's industrial relations spokeswoman Darien Fenton said she had opposed Easter trading legislation seven times since she came to Parliament in 2005.

"All of them have been defeated."

All 11 bills had been put up by National members except one by former Labour MP for Rotorua Steve Chadwick.

Central to the issue was workers' right to enjoy time off with family, which was only guaranteed three-and-a-half days a year: Easter Friday and Sunday, Christmas Day and half of Anzac Day.

"There isn't any way you can stop workers being forced to work."

It was "just crazy" that National kept trying to push the issue. "Give it up."

Fenton acknowledged the law around Easter trading was "very messy" because it allowed some gardening centres to open and shops got fined every year for breaking the law.

National MP Todd McClay agreed the law was "a bit of a mess".

"The law as it stands is confusing for many people."

McClay had a bill in the previous Parliament which was defeated by one vote, and said last night's bill was Dean's second.

Both Dean and his bill gave workers a choice, he said.

"If you wanted to open your shop you could."

Rotorua and Wanaka voters wanted the law in their area changed.

"This isn't a National issue, there are two seats in the country and people in those electorates ask their elected MPs."

The "mum and dads" who owned their own shops in Wanaka and Rotorua didn't get the choice to decide whether they wanted to work on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

McClay said he believed there had been 14 attempts to change Easter trading laws.

"There are 14 parts of New Zealand that can open to some degree or totally over the Easter weekend, there are other areas that can't."

While Queenstown can open on Easter Sunday because it is considered a tourist destination, only one part of a mall in Wanaka can.

War Birds Over Wanaka is held over Easter weekend, and attracts 110, 000 people to the town.

Rotorua had the second-highest number of tourists in New Zealand.

First Union retail secretary Maxine Gay said New Zealand didn't need Easter trading.

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"New Zealanders can shop on 361-and-a-half days a year, and on 51 of 52 Sundays of the year, and most shop workers could be required to work on any of these days."

- Stuff

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