A North Island holiday park and its owner have been ordered to pay a record $680,000 for exploiting three migrant workers.
The staff described working at the Reporoa holiday park as being "like a nightmare" and being trapped in a "prison".
New Zealand Fusion International LTD and its owner Shenshen Guan, which operates the holiday park, has been fined a record $680,350 in penalties and unpaid wage arrears to three migrant workers.
They must pay the amount within 28 days.
Guan operated Golden Springs Holiday Park at Reporoa, between Taupo and Rotorua.
"This judgment sends a strong message that employers who exploit their workers will be put out of business, and charged penalties far in excess of what they may have gained," says labour inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden.
Two of the three workers had mortgaged a house and withdrew their children's university funds in China to each pay a $45,000 premium "bond" to Guan before coming to New Zealand to work at the park, the Employment Court was told.
They arrived on visitor visas and began working unlawfully under false promises of being paid.
The trio worked at the holiday park doing various jobs seven days a week - for no wages, the court heard.
Guan had changed their employment contracts and then used the fact that they had no working visas as a reason not to pay them.
She also claimed their "free" food and accommodation while staying onsite should also offset any expectation of payment.
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The workers referred to their time at the holiday park as being "a nightmare", felt it was like living in a "prison", and one of them said they "wanted to die", the court was told.
"Any worker is lawfully entitled to minimum employment standards," Lumsden said.
"Any employer who thinks they can flout these laws, especially by being in a rural environment where they think isolating workers is sight unseen, can expect to be heavily penalised."
Fusion was ordered to pay $300,000 in penalties, with Guan ordered personally liable for a further $150,000.
Each of the three workers will receive $100,000 of this total, on top of between $69,000 and nearly $92,000 they are owed in unpaid wages and compensation.
New Zealand Fusion and Guan have also been banned from employing staff for 18 months.
Despite the ruling, Guan is unrepentant, telling Newshub she had done nothing wrong and the complainants had made up the allegations.