Council botch-up costly for business owners

By Natalie Dixon

9 comments
Papamoa couple Ricky Lee and Anna Lawrence said they had suffered a 'huge loss' because of the council's lack of communication.
Papamoa couple Ricky Lee and Anna Lawrence said they had suffered a 'huge loss' because of the council's lack of communication.

Tauranga City Council could face legal action after a stuff-up left a group of business owners thousands of dollars out of pocket and forced one to sell up.

In September, the council made changes to its Operation of Mobile Shops Policy, which meant food vendors were now only allowed to park in a residential area for 15 minutes instead of an hour.

But a city manager has admitted the council failed to update its website or brochures, leaving many affected traders in the dark until council staff kicked them off their sites.

Papamoa couple Ricky Lee, 30, and Anna Lawrence, 29, said they had suffered a "huge loss" because of the council's lack of communication.

They are speaking to their lawyer about legal action to recoup some of their lost earnings.

After months of market research, the pair bought Dutch Queen, a caravan from which they sold organic drinks, Dutch frites, Kransky sausages and icecreams.

They say they spoke to council staff dozens of times and looked online to make sure they knew the restrictions of their trading licence but were not told of the new rules, despite applying for their licence the month the changes came into force.

"Dutch Queen is parked up our driveway right now because the changes basically mean we cannot trade anywhere," Ms Lawrence told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"We were parked up at the Mount over Christmas and things were going really well, until this guy from council came and told us to move on. He pulled out all this information, these new rules which we had never seen before. When we compared them to the information we had printed off council's website, it was completely different. He kicked us out on grounds we had never seen."

Mr Lee said the couple would have thought twice about going into business had they seen the "ridiculous" new policy. The couple were still trading at markets and private functions but they had lost most of their income, he said.

"I had to get part-time work because of these changes, which most people don't even know exist."

Brooklyn Reardon, 21, was also investigating legal action after she was forced to sell her caravan, from which she sold real fruit icecream.

"I brought the caravan off Trade Me and spent weeks doing it up with the help of my family and friends.

"I got brochures explaining the rules from council and made a number of calls to council to double check my rights.

"Over and over again I was told to check the council website, which I know now had not been updated and had the wrong information on it."

She sold her caravan after meeting with council staff. "They were full of weak excuses and we did not get an apology."

Council manager environmental compliance John Payne said there had been a "breakdown in communication" which had caused the problem.

The changes were necessary and it was normal to get "teething problems" when introducing new policies and council was working on getting the right balance.

"We didn't communicate the changes with licence holders as well as we could or update the website, and we appreciate that this has caused a headache for some people."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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