Time to revise New Zealand public holidays.

Over Easter the usual debate around trading laws flared up again. It is a debate that happens every Easter in New Zealand, but this year it took on a decidedly religious tinge as people wondered why the country largely shuts up shop on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Tourists in particular were seen wandering around looking for things to do and places to spend money.

That got me thinking about businesses and the Easter trading laws. At the moment New Zealand has 11 public holidays:

  • New Years Day
  • Day after New Years Day
  • Waitangi Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday
  • Easter Monday
  • A.N.Z.A.C. Day
  • Queens Birthday
  • Labour Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day
  • Provincial Holiday

I personally am not religious, so the three days around Easter, plus Christmas and Boxing Day mean nothing to me. In fact on Christmas Day 2017 we had a Christmas tree up but it was never decorated and it was taken out just a few days later. More interestingly, no one complained.

I also worked on Christmas Day – it did not terribly bother me. When I got home, got changed and freshened up I had a quiet afternoon with Mum and Dad. We had whitebait for dinner and Christmas pudding and it was nice and simple.

Whilst I can understand Catholics and Christians wanting these days off, I do not see why all of New Zealand should grind to a halt for them. We do not stop for Ramadan or Channukah or Diwali, so why should we stop for Christmas and Easter? Whilst it has been argued that New Zealand is a Christian nation because the Church of England, which the reigning sovereign is the head of, I do not think Christianity is the prevailing religion, and nor has it been for some time.

So, if the law changes I have no problems with that. My own proposals are to do away with compulsory closure at Easter and Christmas. But before anyone thinks that I am proposing to deny people time off for major holidays that could not be further from the truth.

  • A.N.Z.A.C. Day – the early afternoon opening will change to an all day closure; existing laws around the sale of alcohol would still apply – R.S.A.’s would not need a special licence to sell alcohol
  • The Maori New Year (Matariki) is in June – an acknowledgement of Matariki could be a three day weekend at the end of June; trading laws would be the same as A.N.Z.A.C. Day
  • ***NEW*** New Zealand Dominion Day 26 September and the Day After would become a day for New Zealanders to come together as a nation and celebrate who we are; under separate legislation our annual fireworks release would be moved to this day; only essential services would work

In return, the penalty rate would be increased to 2x normal pay for those who work on public holidays and the day in lieu would remain untouched.

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