The Easter opening debate on who can and who can't open and when has reared its ugly head again, as Wānaka’s two New World supermarkets opened their doors on Easter Friday.
New World was supposed to be closed on Friday said First Union regional secretary Paul Watson.
“Opening the doors showed a flagrant disregard for the Holidays Act.
“It is one of the times workers can have off to spend with their loved ones. Effectively this is just pure greed,” Watson said
"These supermarkets are already allowed to trade on Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Wanaka over the Easter weekend, allowing plenty of time for the local community and visitors to shop.
“These supermarkets, it's quite frankly like crocodile tears, and we just don’t buy it.”
The point of the Holidays Act was to allow workers time off to rest with their families and, for some, to acknowledge and observe the religious relevance of the Easter period, he said.
With the population of Wānaka almost tripling over Easter, Queenstown Lakes District deputy mayor Calum MacLeod said supermarkets opening was crucial.
“We are a town of about 12,000 people and there are probably between 35,000 to 40,000 people in town this weekend and supermarkets opening is more of a service to them than disrespect to anybody else. It is a chance to capitalise on an influx of visitors to offset Covid losses.”
Businesses that trade on Good Friday can be fined up to $1000, especially if they had been previously warned and prosecuted.
“They should beef up the penalty and they should also impose on them to close their store for two or three days of trading,” said Watson.
Foodstuffs is backing the store owners saying the area had been severely impacted by Covid and Easter was a time when local tourism could get a much-needed revenue boost.
Foodstuffs head of corporate affairs Antoinette Laird said the Easter holiday had come on the back of "a very challenging year" for the Queenstown and Wānaka community which had been severely impacted by Covid-19 and the lack of international tourism to the area.
“Many businesses were struggling and Easter was a time when local tourism could provide them with much-needed revenue,” she said.
"In situations like this our store owners make an informed decision to put their community, staff and customers’ needs first and we know the local community appreciates the ability to be able to access much-needed groceries over the holidays.
“To meet the needs of the community, our Wānaka stores decided to open over the Easter holiday, just as many Queenstown businesses do."
She said due to the small size of Wānaka, there were already a limited number of grocery options.
First Union has laid an official complaint to the Labour Inspectorate on the matter.
The Labour Inspectorate works under Employment New Zealand, which is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
In 2017, retailers in Wānaka were given the go-ahead to open legally on Easter Sunday for the first time after the Queenstown Lakes District Council voted to relax the rules which had prohibited most retailers from opening.
Both New World’s had a steady stream of shoppers through their doors over Easter.
“I think the law is somewhat antiquated – it's time to move with the times,” one New World shopper told the Sun.
“I didn’t realise it might have been closed on Friday and was running out of food, so appreciate the supermarket being open,” said another.
“It’s a good move,” said another shopper.
New World Wanaka owners Justin and Joss Purcell declined to speak to the Sun.
And so the debate goes on!
Read edition 1021 of the Wānaka Sun here.