A Rotorua businessman says he has learned a valuable lesson and has accepted his punishment after pleading guilty and being fined for selling falsely labelled souvenirs to tourists.
In December, Wild Nature NZ Limited and its sole director, Rotorua's Sung Ho (Stanley) Park, were fined in the Auckland District Court after Park pleaded guilty to 30 charges of making false representations about expensive wool products sold to tour groups.
Park was fined $25,000 and Wild Nature fined $243,444 after being taken to court by the Commerce Commission.
Park put Wild Nature into voluntary liquidation in September 2013, but said he would pay his fines and move on.
"I learned a lot from this case. I understand why the commission did this and respect its decision," he told the Rotorua Daily Post.
He stressed he was one of eight companies prosecuted by the commission during the course of its investigation.
Park was also involved in the building of a new multi-million dollar tourism venture - New Zealand Heritage Farm - on the old Caterpillar Experience and Barkers Park site on Fairy Springs Rd.
Park said he had sold the property, but the project would still go ahead as he wanted to contribute to Rotorua's success as a tourist destination.
Wild Nature and Park were the last of eight souvenir companies and seven directors to be sentenced after the Commerce Commission launched an investigation in 2011.
Tourists in organised tour groups from China, Korea and Taiwan were taken to Wild Nature's premises, where they were sold "New Zealand made" alpaca rugs, which were actually from Peru.
Wild Nature also created certificates claiming the rugs had the approval of professional entities that did not exist.
Wild Nature further pleaded guilty to offering duvets for sale labelled as containing exclusively or predominantly alpaca or merino wool fibre.
In reality, the alpaca fibres were only a small part of the duvet mix and there was no merino wool in the merino duvets.
Tourists paid as much as $4000 per rug - up to four times more than they would have paid for properly labelled rugs - while the duvets, made for approximately $70, were often sold for prices that varied between $400 and $1000.
Commission chairman Dr Mark Berry said Wild Nature's behaviour was highly calculated and the company clearly set out to deceive tourists.
"The extent to which Wild Nature worked to mislead tourists displayed a callous disregard for the law and New Zealand's tourism reputation.
"They had no other goal but to rip tourists off and reap the rewards," Dr Berry said.
"Hopefully these prosecutions serve as a deterrent to anyone who believes they can get away with fleecing tourists, but regardless, the industry can be assured we will continue to target this behaviour," he said.
New Zealand Heritage Farm project manager Tim Kim told the Rotorua Daily Post the first stage of the project was almost complete and should be open in "a few weeks' time".
He said local builders were employed to do the work and the resulting attraction could employ up to 45 people and would include a 300-seat restaurant, a natural New Zealand product retail operation, hole in one golf, blueberry orchard and a small farm.