Auckland Council is being labelled as the Grinch who stole Christmas by two Auckland teenagers who had their tree selling operation shut down.
Sophie Magasiva, 18, and Elijah Andrews, 19, had sold trees at the Western Springs Rd and Mountain View Rd intersection for the past three years without a hitch.
However, shortly after Magasiva had set up shop yesterday morning, a council official shut down the operation because they didn't have a permit to sell the trees.
Magasiva told the Herald last night she wondered if a rival Christmas tree seller complained to the council about their operation.
"Auckland Council came up to me and said they had a complaint about our stall and our signage is a distraction to road users," she said.
"If anything we've actually moved back from the kerb, we used to be quite close to the kerb and to the roundabout but we've moved further back.
"We usually have a couple of signs but I think it's a bit extreme to say our signs were a distraction."
However, Max Wilde, team manager compliance response for Auckland Council, said the number of signs the pair had put out was the issue.
"On arrival council staff counted about 10 signs, including one on the roundabout that was restricting the view to oncoming traffic," Wilde said.
"Under the street trading rules, sellers are allowed two signs to advertise their stalls.
"Council staff advised the sellers that they would need to reduce the number of signs and also enquired if they had a licence to be selling on the council intersection."
Magasiva and Andrews informed the council they did not have a licence and the council official told them they could relocate to their own property.
"People selling Christmas trees on their own property do not need to be licenced under the Trading and Events in Public Places Bylaw (the Bylaw)," Wilde said.
The sellers said they were not licenced so the council staff advised they could still use signs to promote the stall and could move the trees to the driveway of their home which is by the intersection."
Being told to shift was upsetting for the pair who had been selling Christmas trees at the location in Western Springs since November 30 and are often very busy.
In the previous two weekends, the pair had sold out of Christmas trees, their customers parking nearby and out of the way of traffic.
The pair operates on their own, getting the trees from a supplier who also sells to other groups throughout Auckland.
Andrews said they had established themselves with tree shoppers over the three years they have been selling at the location.
"It's pretty average [for the council to do this] because we've established the place to sell Christmas trees and people know we're there," he said.
"We set up under the pōhutukawa tree on the roundabout there with a gazebo and homemade signs and a trailer with the trees in them.
"Weekdays we usually work from 11 till just after six, depending on how busy, and on weekends just until we sell out."
Wilde said it was unfortunate the pair had to be relocated, but the safety of the public was at the forefront of the council's decision.
The intersection has high traffic volume and is also currently undergoing roadworks, making driving conditions more difficult.
"We understand these young people are trying to be enterprising, however, we still need to ensure public safety," he said.
"If they do not wish to sell on their property the council staff have offered to assist these traders to apply for a licence and find a more suitable location to continue selling their trees.
"We look forward to them getting in touch."