Customers may pick up food safety tab

By Matthew Martin

6 comments
EXTRA COSTS: Increased compliance costs for Rotorua food premises could see restaurants, cafes and other food outlets passing those costs on to their customers. Pictured are Atticus Finch restaurant manager Sean Kelly and Brew Bar's Calypso Childs. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
EXTRA COSTS: Increased compliance costs for Rotorua food premises could see restaurants, cafes and other food outlets passing those costs on to their customers. Pictured are Atticus Finch restaurant manager Sean Kelly and Brew Bar's Calypso Childs. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

Law changes could see compliance costs for Rotorua food outlets skyrocket - and some say if that happens they will have no option but to pass those costs on to customers.

Councillors received a full report into the new Food Act 2014 at a meeting of the Rotorua Lakes Council's operations and monitoring committee this week.

In his report, the council's compliance solutions manager Neven Hill said the new Act did not have to be fully implemented until February 2019, but the new rules were significantly different and much more complex than previous legislation.

At Thursday's meeting he said registration costs for local food outlets could rise from around $500 a year to between $2000 and $3000.

The new Act could also mean the council will have to hire more staff and spend a lot more time inspecting and registering food outlets, with those costs being passed on to business owners.

But Mr Hill said issues around additional staff, resources and fees would be the subject of another report at a later date.

He said he and his staff had began a communication strategy to help make food outlets aware of the upcoming changes but wanted to point out that the changes were forced on councilsnationwide by the Ministry of Primary Industries.

"For new premises it takes two to three hours on average to get set up and registered. Under the new Act this could take 12 to 17 hours.

"But we want to we want to be fair and reasonable to our food operators and the ratepayers in the district.

"The cost of compliance will increase from our side and businesses will have to do more admin for food control plans that set out a whole raft of different things they have to record on sometimes a daily and sometimes an hourly basis," Mr Hill said.

Sabroso co-owner Sarah Little said the new Act could not be put in place without causing extra costs for businesses.

"This needs to be out there in the public because our customers need to know what's happening.

"Obviously our prices would have to increase because the fee structure would have to be high.

"This would be my single largest cost on a monthly basis - liquor licence fees have already tripled in the last several years," she said.

Atticus Finch restaurant manager Sean Kelly said such a large increase in compliance costs would eventually have to be passed on to customers.

"We are a business after all. It will mean more work for chefs, staff and managers and that all costs money, costs that could make or break some places," he said.

Councillors decided to let the government know their feelings though Local Government New Zealand.

"It makes me wonder if people in Wellington have nothing else to do," councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said.

"It's absolutely onerous for our business owners and it's going to be costly."

Councillor Charles Sturt said the system had always been user-pays and he did not feel comfortable asking general ratepayers to subsidise those costs.

Hospitality New Zealand Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said he understood where the council was coming from and conceded the new law had to be followed.

"Generally speaking the law is there to keep the public safe. But it will require a lot more effort and a lot more cost to make sure everyone is compliant."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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