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Guy Trafford struggles with the inconsistent reasons for special restrictions on some religious holidays. He also reviews the latest dairy prices, and notes Synlait Milk's unique issues with supplying A2 Milk

Guy Trafford struggles with the inconsistent reasons for special restrictions on some religious holidays. He also reviews the latest dairy prices, and notes Synlait Milk's unique issues with supplying A2 Milk

When I was farming, Easter came and went and there was little disruption to the weekly pattern. Animals had to be fed, milked etc. and provided this was done holidays could be adhered to.

Even when I was also in academic circles, Easter was uncomplicated with holidays factored in and taken by most. So, it was ‘interesting’ being involved with the retail and hospitality sector for my first Easter (last year's was cancelled, effectively).

The general feeling by most I rubbed shoulders with was confusion, with a degree of frustration. New Zealand is defined as being a secular country, that is, having no state religion, where religion and the democratic process are separate. However, we seem to have a very confused set of rules when it comes to religious ‘Holy Days’. With our Christian heritage (for many if not most) it is understandable how religious events have permeated our culture and so having commerce shut down on some days comes with little argument. Christmas Day and for different reasons Anzac day restrictions come with little push back by most Kiwis’.

Easter, however, falls into a different category. Most people enjoy the break, and why wouldn’t you. But forcing shops to be closed unless they have exemptions starts to get into weird and wonderful territory. In our case, the Christchurch Riverside Market was allowed to have the market shops that were selling staples (meat, fish, cheese, bread veges etc) or takeaway food to be open. But shops that were selling dessert style food, sweets etc. were not. Also venues that sold alcohol without a ‘full’ meal were not, despite being surrounded by food sellers by the dozen.

On the other side of the alps a plate of chips was considered to meet the ‘meal’ requirement.

So there is a wide breadth of how the law is interpreted, but my gripe is more about why we have a law in the first place, if we are meant to be a secular society. We don’t shut down the country for the Hindu festival of Diwali or Chinese New Year or any number of other religious festivals that happen to be non-Christian.

I heard Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff say the that Auckland Council had decided that people needed to spend time with their families and most Aucklanders would be away at their baches - spoken like a well-endowed person totally out of touch with the reality of most people. Why he thought the Auckland Council should have the right to dictate how its citizens should spend their time is beyond me. Christchurch City Council at least recognised that not only would traders appreciate the additional days (for many) to make a living but also that visitors to the city and locals alike (without a bach [crib] to go to) would like something to do.

Back to things rural. The latest Global Dairy Trade auction came and went with little fanfare. This was a good thing as it basically means little change and business as usual. Overall there was a +0.3% lift with cheese leading the way up +2.2%; WMP unchanged;  SMP up +0.6% and butter +2%.

 Volumes sold were down a little on the previous sale but up on the same sale last year indicating that prices seem to have gained acceptance from buyers especially China. The strength or otherwise of the US dollar may be the biggest influencer in the shorter term. At the moment the NZ$ is around 70.5 US cents, well down from the February high of 74.3 USc.

Fonterra has also confirmed that it has managed to get rid of its China farms. Fonterra has completed the sale of its two wholly owned China farming hubs in Ying and Yutian.

As announced in October 2020, the sale of the farms to Inner Mongolia Youran Dairy was subject to anti-trust clearance and other regulatory approvals in China. These approvals have now been received. The transaction proceeds comprise the original sale price of NZ$513 mln plus NZ$39 mln in settlement adjustments, giving cash proceeds of NZ$552 mln. Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell said the completion of the sale is an important milestone for Fonterra following its strategic refresh. Perhaps of interest is that shareholder investors seem not to be impressed with the Fonterra share price, with it falling to $4.79 from $4.93 prior to the sale.

Synlait Milk's latest news release highlighted to impact the fortunes that A2 Milk (ATM) has on the fortunes of the company. At the moment demand for a2 infant formula is ‘uncertain’ and this uncertainty is flowing through to Synlait who are being somewhat circumspect about the financial returns for the remainder of 2021. However, there is nothing to infer that Synlait will not be able to ride out the current problems.

And finally, a footnote to last week; there was some discussion regarding the timber and kiwifruit industry on a report I wrote, and some varying opinion. The kiwifruit situation will run in public shortly and what the options are will be revealed then. The forestry issues are less widely discussed but a worthwhile program to listen to is linked in here. The China actions are arguably quite a rationale but it appears Kiwis are the losers.

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Perhaps we could secularise the religious holidays by calling them consumption free days instead? After all, our economic system has become a pseudo religion, why not have secular holidays from it?

I'm with Guy Trafford. Our quaint restrictions around Easter are a vestige of the 1960s, when trading was restricted for over 100 days a year: you could buy a one-pound bag of flour or sugar from your local dairy on a Sunday because your need might be accidental, but you couldn't buy a two-pound bag because that was plainly negligent and disrespectful.
All praise to Labour MP Kieran McAnulty, with his attempt to rustle up support from his fellow MPs for a bill to allow alcohol to be sold at Easter, Christmas, and Anzac the same as it is sold on any other statutory holiday. But straight away we have pushback from fellow Labour MP Peeni Henare. Wearing his associate health minister's hat he says he fears allowing alcohol sales on these days will be bad for our health. If you wonder how he calculates that selling alcohol 365 days a year is worse than selling it 362 days a year, you might be right thinking he has another motive: in 2015 and 2016 he voted against all three readings of the bill to relax shop trading hours; it wasn't about alcohol then.
We are big kids now. We don't need the religious minority using our MPs to tell us what we can and cannot do. McAnulty's bill, if it proceeds, needs to move beyond sale of liquor hours, to remove all restrictions on trading over Easter. Whether a business opens ought to be entirely up to the proprietor.
Worker protections that already apply to Easter Sunday would be extended to Good Friday (and to the high holy days of other religions):

You do not have to work on Easter Sunday
Your employer must let you know 4 to 8 weeks before Easter that you can refuse to work on Easter Sunday.
You must tell your employer you’re not going to work. You must tell them in writing, and within 14 days of your employer telling you can refuse to work.
If you refuse to work on Easter Sunday:
you do not have to give a reason
your employer cannot treat you badly if you refuse to work
you can raise a personal grievance against your employer if you’re made to work or you’re treated badly for not working.

Or maybe, we could just organise ourselves to have enough supplies for 2.5 non consumption days, where we recognise what life was like before we were trained to have shopping as our national religion?

But where will we find meaning in life if we cannot roam a mall and search for shiny things to put in our houses?

Times have changed, quite simply you need to move on and stop hanging on to the "good old days", such as they were

The funny thing about New Zealand is that while bureaucracy is in our DNA, we do not want to accept it. We waste so much money and resources on it and loose a lot due to idiotic policies. But, that is the way we are.

further, our smartest people don't go in developing policies and rules. Have you ever heard that a bright young graduate wants to work for city council or even government? Guess, who makes these policies.

Do NZers want the Easter public holidays or not?
100 years ago almost all NZers identified with some form of Christianity. Including Maori.
By 2013 census this has fallen to 47%.
The (unreliable) 2018 census reported 37% although Ratana and Judaism (with Passover tradition) could arguably be added.
History can’t easily be expunged from our country. Many NZers who may hold agnostic views still have a sympathetic and ancestral acceptance of our Judeo-Christian heritage and holidays.

Have you even read this article before commenting? dispute is not about the holiday.
At issue is why we have rules on opening and closing of businesses on these 'holidays'.

A holiday is either a holiday or not - a holy day, as the origin of the word indicates.

Nothing stops the pious from celebrating their festival. It's even has a holiday designation. But the question is why this [minority] group's views should limit how others choose to spend this time. Other groups don't get this right to limit the whole population when they have a religious festival.

Now we have significant numbers of other religions, perhaps we could recognise their important days with non consumption days also? The money isn't going anywhere. It'll still exist next shopping day? I seem to remember that suggestion around Diwali.

NZers who identify with any stream of Christianity are still the largest group of all religious belief systems.
NZ has a historic foundation of Christian belief - & it’s not really about the pious - it’s about honouring NZs history, our foundation of society, and giving all workers a day off including retail & hospo workers.
Is there any agitation to have all shops open on Christmas Day?

Eh? It's not about "christian" belief but we have a historic foundation of "christian" belief that must be honoured...? You do realise our society was founded before "christians" arrived?
If they want those days off fine, let the rest of us choose when we have those days.

NZ has certain public holidays based on various traditions. It would pretty disruptive if everyone just took random extra annual leave days instead of agreed upon public holidays.
Is anyone lobbying to abolish Anzac Day, or Labour Day, etc? Or lobbying for businesses to stay open on Christmas Day?
Be careful what you wish for - no protection for workers and families on public holidays. Because we want to be ‘free’.
NZ society, economy, & govt is mainly modelled on the historic British system in partnership with Maori.
A system we enjoy with many freedoms and prosperity - including orderly public holidays.

I agree NZ has a sympathy for Christianity but that shouldn't prevent someone from making a living or having a beer if they so desire

Go the whole hog: shut down for everything you can possibly imagine and permanently esconce the four day weekend. I'm sure if you click through enough Wikipedia articles you can find justification for a holiday every Friday and Monday - "Blessed Day on the First Running of the Salmon in Canada? That'll be a Friday/Monday job for sure".

It is quite reassuring to know that there are a few days of the year, most, if not all, of a family can get together, don't really care what you call them

Why cant we all just choose when to have those 2/3 days off? I resent being dictated to by "Christians". If they want to have those days off, fine.

Think of the benefits: no mad traffic jams as everyone tries to get away/come back on the same days. You can go away at other cheaper times.

Christmas is pretty fun though!
And a great economic/ consumer stimulus.

The saw mills have gone the way of the freezing works in that lack of investment has resulted in non-competitive processing plant. Adherence to a genuine cooperative capital model in which participant capital is proportionally allocated and appropriate earnings are re-invested may have avoided such capital erosion, but in the farming sector we seem hell bent on rejecting this tried and true intergenerational model in favor of short term profit gouging.

The Auckland mayors attitude above correlates well with successive governments ignorance and/or antipathy of the power of cooperative models, reflected in the de-regulation of the dairy board and re-regulation through DIRA resulting in offshore and corporate capital clipping the value ticket in NZ dairy. I still cannot see how that adds value to our economy.

We need holidays. Don't care what you call Them. But seriously legally imposed trading restrictions on holidays due to historical religious reasons, is no different to say state run pagan practices of the roman rupublic.

Incidentally, just in case you need reminding, most of our religious events (Easter & Christmas etc) where originally pagan festivals until the Romans transitioned to one faith one God.

Not that I care, I just want to eat chocolate.