Easter trading: 17 caught breaking law

Seventeen retailers across New Zealand face legal action after Department of Labour inspectors caught them trading during today's holiday.

The Department of Labour declined to name the offending businesses, nor what action it intended to take for trading on Good Friday.

Most of those caught were garden centres, although inspectors also caught three music shops breaking the law.

Last year dozens of shops ignored the ban, many choosing to pay a $1000 fine in order to keep the doors open.

In response, then-labour minister Trevor Mallard and Green Party industrial relations spokeswoman Sue Bradford called for harsher penalties to discourage such action.

The yearly bust-up between business owners, bureaucrats and unions over holiday trading bans continues this year with no resolution in sight.

Yesterday, National Distribution Union (NDU) spokeswoman Laila Harre said she hoped "this year won't be the last one that shop workers can enjoy with their families and friends".

"Our Easter trading laws are not just silly rules," she said.

"They are there to ensure a bare minimum of non-trading days that celebrate and encourage family life, community activity and religious observances over narrow commercial interest."

New Zealand Retailers Association spokesman Barry Hellberg said there had been nine attempts to change the Easter laws since 1990, none of which had gained the support of government.

The most recent bill, drafted by Rotorua MP Todd McClay, called for the choice to trade or not to be made at a local level.

Regulatory Reform Minister Rodney Hide - a long-time campaigner against the Easter trading laws - has called the red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy "ridiculous".

"Garden centres can open on Easter Sunday but the Mitre 10 hardware shop nearby, which also sells plants, can't," he said in March.

Currently, the law bans all but a few retailers such as service stations, cafes and dairies from Easter Sunday trading.

Some tourist destinations in Queenstown and Taupo are also exempt.