Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Ele Ludemann: Time to put ass out of its misery

Reports here, here, here and here suggest that if any reporters were working in Wanaka at the weekend they were at Warbirds over Wanaka, not in town.

All reports say two supermarkets stayed open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday in contravention of the Easter Trading law which prohibits most retailers in most places from opening on those days.

What the reports don’t say, which points to no reporters being there, is that most other shops in the town were also open on those days, as they have been for several years.

The law applies only to bars and licensed cafes – which can sell alcohol only if customers also buy food – and most retailers, any other business can choose to open. It exempts some retailers including dairies and fuel stations; and it allows all shops in some places deemed to be tourist destinations, to open on Easter Sunday, which isn’t a statutory holiday. Included in that exemption are Taupo and Queenstown, but not neighbouring Rotorua and Wanaka.

It is difficult to see why both of these aren’t recognised as tourist destinations when their neighbours are, especially Wanaka this year when 10s of thousands of people were there for Warbirds over Wanaka.

This law is inconsistent which makes it bad law.

One argument for prohibiting shops to open is that Good Friday and Easter Sunday are holy days, but if opening a shop on those days desecrates their holiness when people can choose to patronises it or not, wouldn’t holding an air show or operating other businesses do the same?

People would have been able to buy whatever was on sale at the airport, in service stations, tourist shops and dairies but not buy exactly the same things in other shops unless they popped over the hill to Queenstown where all shops were allowed to open on Sunday.

Governments can’t make a day holy, that’s up to individuals, their faith and how they practise it.

National’s former Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean tried, and failed, to change the law with a private members’ bill a few years ago. Act MP Chris Baillie’s similar bill failed last year too. Another Act MP Cameron Luxton is trying again with another member’s bill.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon supports a change but says it’s not a priority.

At least for now, improvements to the law will depend on the member’s bill being drawn.

Even then it’s a conscience issue so there’s no guarantee it would pass, but the current law is an ass and it’s time to put it out of its misery.

Ele Ludemann is a North Otago farmer and journalist, who blogs HERE - where this article was sourced.

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