Wanaka Easter traders escape prosecution

21:23, Apr 22 2014

Wanaka businesses illegally trading during Easter are unlikely to be reprimanded after labour inspectors did not visit the town and there were no complaints.

Waitaki MP and tourism parliamentary private secretary Jacqui Dean said she believed no inspectors were in town because the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would investigate illegal trading only if there was a complaint.

"I certainly know the ministry of labour has indicated the labour inspectors would only be acting on a complaint," Dean said.

Service stations, dairies, food outlets, duty-free stores, shops providing a service, real estate agencies, pharmacies, garden centres and souvenir shops could open during Easter.

Businesses that did not fall under those categories faced a $1000 fine for opening.

The ministry received 18 complaints of businesses trading, including one in Queenstown and one in Alexandra.

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None of the businesses was previously warned or prosecuted. Stores in Queenstown have an exemption from the restriction that covers Wanaka.

Last year, 46 complaints were received. Two businesses were visited by inspectors and two businesses were prosecuted. One was fined $1000 and the other $500.

More than 50,000 extra people were expected in Wanaka for the long weekend, when the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow was being held.

"Tourist towns, where it [trading] really matters, were open," Dean said.

"Other towns where businesses without the Easter tourism bubble were not open."

She believed the trading laws were not working, forcing business owners to trade illegally, and she would continue to work to have the law changed.

Base Wanaka owner Chris Walsh said "we opened because Easter is a busy holiday weekend and we feel retail is a part of the experience of coming to a resort town like this."

Two Base stores were busy throughout the weekend and his staff were happy to work, he said.

Labour's tourism spokesman, Andrew Little, said "the idea that a government department can give a nod and a wink to traders that it won't enforce shop trading laws and for a government MP to then claim it as grounds for a review of the law is another act of Third World shonkiness from National."

Retailers in Wanaka were following a tip-off that no action would be taken if they opened for business to take advantage of the crowds attending the air show, Little said.

"This is yet another example of the National Government allowing commercial imperatives to be used as an excuse to abandon due process and the rule of law."

New Zealand Retailers Association government relations manager Barry Hellberg said "the law is an ass and it needs to be changed".

Wanaka would have to fight the "absurd law".

 

The Southland Times