National News

National News is brought to you by a partnership between Crux and RNZ News 

Wānaka supermarkets choosing to deliberately breach Easter trading rules

Mar 31, 2024

Foodstuffs says its Wānaka New World stores have decided to stay open across Easter Weekend in breach of the holiday's trading laws.

Almost all shops across the motu were required to close on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday, unless they were deemed essential or had an exemption, the Labour Inspectorate said.

But New World Wānaka and New World Three Parks were trading as usual, without an exemption or essential store status.

Read more: Easter weekend: What's open, what's not and when you have to pay a surcharge

Both stores had previously been fined for trading on Good Friday, in 2021 and 2022, in breach of the Shop Trading Hours Act.

"Wānaka is part of the Queenstown Lakes District Council, and while Queenstown has an exemption to trade on Good Friday which dates back to the mid-1980s, Wānaka isn't included in that exemption," Foodstuffs spokesperson Emma Wooster said.

"With tens of thousands of visitors expected to come into town over the holidays, the two New World stores in Wānaka took the decision to open throughout the Easter holidays, including Good Friday and Easter Monday," she said.

Wānaka was hosting its iconic airshow, Warbirds Over Wānaka, for the first time in six years, following pandemic-related cancellations.

"Their motivation is to make sure the local community and visitors alike, have the convenience of access to food and groceries from a full-service supermarket throughout the break," Wooster said.

Neither store would be selling alcohol on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, she said.

In January 2023, MBIE put out a statement criticising the stores for ignoring warnings.

"Despite MBIE reminding the two stores and Foodstuffs' South Island chief executive in early April 2022, the two stores opened on Good Friday, which was against the law," Labour Inspectorate regional manager Loua Ward said then.

"As a leader and major employer in the retail sector, it is extremely disappointing to see a prominent group like Foodstuffs South Island's having two owner/operators blatantly choosing to ignore their legal responsibilities and focus on profit making.

Confusion over shop restrictions

Labour Inspectorate compliance and enforcement head Simon Humphries said there was often confusion around the Easter trading restrictions and which shops could open.

There were three ways shops could get an exemption, he said.

"Shops are allowed to open if they're classed as an essential shop or business permitted to trade, then some shops may have an area exemption, and finally councils might put local policies in place within their area," Humphries said.

Essential shops or businesses allowed to open included dairies, petrol stations, pharmacies, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and barbers.

Area exemptions were generally given in tourist areas such as Taupō or Queenstown, he said, though there had been calls to overhaul the trading hours across the motu.

The Inspectorate would not release the number of complaints or what enforcement action it had taken until after the restricted trading period ends, Humphries said.

Wānaka Business Chamber general manager Glenn Peat said it was time the town's Easter trading restrictions were re-evaluated.

"The trading has been positive, it's been good to see a lot of people around town. There is a lot of traffic around, I have to say that - it's something we're not used to," he said.

"There is some trading that does go on, but at the same time there are equally opportunities that are missed, so that would definitely be something we need to look into.

"You can look at the Easter trading hours two different ways. Obviously it would be nice if trading was as per usual, but at the same time, we have to respect the laws that are in place and it does give the families of those businesses and their staff members an opportunity to join in on Warbirds as well," Peat said.

Record crowds for the airshow and perfect weather was helping foot traffic around businesses, he said.

"There is the pre and post of the event too, which certainly does help when you've got thousands of people in and around town."

But it was not just Wānaka that would benefit from it, Peat said.

"It's fantastic to see so many people around and I'm sure that the local economy, which does include Queenstown, because all the accommodation providers and hospitality over there, would be seeing an influx too."

The Chamber thought it was time for a renewed debate around the holiday trading exemptions, he said.

"It's not for us to decide, it's got to be something that we can look into and advocate for with the Queenstown Lakes District Council. Remember, this is the first time we're hosting Warbirds in six years and a lot's changed in six years, maybe the regulations haven't kept up."

Advertise with Crux Advertise with Crux