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Department of Labour reminds retailers of Easter Trading law

Media Release

3 April 2009

In the run-up to Easter the Department of Labour is advising retailers to ensure they are familiar with the law that restricts shops from trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

That law - the Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal Act 1990 - specifies three-and-a-half days each year on which most New Zealand retailers must close – Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and until 1pm on Anzac Day.

The Department’s Deputy Secretary Craig Armitage says: “The Act sets out exemptions from shop trading restrictions for a limited number of retailers. All others must close on the restricted days. The Department encourages retailers to contact it prior to Easter if they are uncertain whether they are able to open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.”

The Act allows certain types of shops to remain open on restricted days. These are shops whose main purpose is to provide essential supplies in quantities which people in the area or travelling through may need, shops providing food ready to eat, souvenir and duty free shops, pharmacies, and shops in premises where there are bona fide shows or exhibitions.

Shops in locations covered by area exemptions issued by the former Shop Trading Hours Commission, under the previous law, may also trade on restricted days. The Department of Labour cannot make or change area exemptions or redefine the boundaries of these areas - there are no provisions to do that under the shop trading legislation.

If a business does not clearly fit into one of the exempted categories, it is an offence to open and trade during any time the law restricts trading. The owner or occupier of the shop may be prosecuted and fined up to $1000.”

For more information, please see the shop trading fact sheet on the Department of Labour’s website, and see information below.


Q: How can retailers get more information?

Retailers can visit the Department’s website for information on the rules around shop trading.

Retailers wanting personalised information on how the law applies to them can call the Department during business hours on 0800 20 90 20. The Department will make an assessment on whether or not the retailer can open, based on the information provided.

Retailers wanting guidance in writing on how the law applies to them can write to the Department – either by submitting an on-line question using the ‘Ask a Question’ facility available at Employment Relations or by writing to the Department at PO Box 105 183 Auckland Central 1030.

Q: So why are shops in some areas, on some days, allowed to open?

A: The previous legislation allowed areas to obtain exemptions from the restricted hours. This generally applied to areas that had significant tourist traffic. When the 1990 Act was passed, all existing exemptions were continued. But Parliament repealed provisions allowing those exemptions to be removed or changed, or for new exemptions to be issued.

Q: But other retailers now can’t get an exemption?

A: That’s right. The 1990 legislation provided that other retailers are now free to open at any time apart from those 3½ days.

Q: Garden centres are different though?

A: Yes, in 2001 an amendment was passed to the legislation as a result of a Private Member’s Bill that allowed garden centres to open on Easter Sunday.

Q: Are there any plans to change the law?

A: Any changes to legislation are the responsibility of Parliament. There are no Bills on Shop Trading currently before Parliament.