Ever see a city shut down? Well, we did. We happened to spend Easter weekend in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington; but I imagine other tourists were getting the same experience in other places throughout the country.
We flew from Auckland to Wellington on the mornng of Good Friday, April 22, 2011. We were somewhat prepared for the experience because we already knew that Good Friday is a public holiday in New Zealand. And so is Easter Sunday. So the Saturday in between may as well be, too.
But wait, there’s more: Easter Monday is also a national public holiday! So everybody gets four days off. And most of them leave the city. I don’t know where they go but they weren’t in Wellington!
But wait, there’s more: Anzac Day is celebrated every year in Australia and New Zealand on April 25th (it’s like our Memorial Day). But they already had the day off because April 25th was also Easter Monday this year. Ooh, did we get an earful on this topic from many New Zealanders! It seems that most New Zealanders lost the extra holiday this year, only getting the one day off. But to make matters worse, in Australia they decided to give everyone Tuesday off, too. So they got a five-day holiday and lots of them flew over to New Zealand to celebrate. This did not bode well for New Zealanders who only got four days off. And we heard lots of whining. But not from everybody. The hotel and restaurant employees we talked to who had to work the weekend were pretty happy about it because they would get time and a half for their troubles plus a day in lieu (extra day off).
But wait, there’s even more to this story: there happens to be a law in New Zealand that says you better have a pretty good reason for doing business on a national holiday such as Good Friday or Easter Sunday. Selling beer in a bar is not a good reason. The owner of the Jurassic Ridge Vineyards told us on Thursday that he would be heavily fined if he got caught selling a bottle of wine on Good Friday. As far as we knew, all hotels in Wellngton were still open and the busses were running. Even some restaurants — or maybe I should say even a few — decided to remain open. There’a also a law that says all stores and shops should not open for business before 1pm on Anzac Day. But most businesses decide what the heck regarding holiday weekends like this and close down for the entire weekend.
But wait, there’s one more item to this story that involves us, the tourists. Do you think we were inconvenienced by this law? Well, there happens to be another law that says it’s OK for cafes and restaurants who stay open during the weekend to add a 15% surcharge (some places go up to 20%) to whatever they are selling in order to pay that time and a half they have to pay the help. So there’s a double law that delivers a double whammy to the tourist: whatever service you do get on this weekend, you will probably have to pay extra for it!
All that being said, I have to admit that we still found a number of things to do and overall had a pretty good time in Wellington over Easter Weekend! Stay tuned for photo essays on each of the four days we spent in New Zealand’s capital.