Kitchen fees take the cake

Frustrated: Queenstown baker Melissa White

A big bureaucratic bill’s left a sour taste for a Queenstown cake-maker.

Melissa White believes council fees for registering and auditing are putting people off registering their kitchens – and punishing those who do the right thing.

But the council says its hands are, essentially, tied.

White is the owner of Cherry Blossom Cakes, a small business based at Lake Hayes Estate.

She’s ropable over the fact that the audit of her small kitchen costs the same as major commercial restaurants – despite the fact her work is “low-risk”.

“It’s a massive disad-vantage to be doing the right thing.”

She says she asked her last auditor how long he would spend on her case, from the audit itself to finishing the paperwork.

His answer? About three hours, she says.

Which is far less than the 10 hours of work the council bases its fees on.

She was charged $576. The previous year, she was charged $720.

“I have been arguing for the past three years about this, asking for a reduction for small part-time, low-risk businesses that really don’t take up the full 10 hours to have some kind of reduction in fee.”

Council comms advisor Lu Morris says council can offer payment plans, but it has “no system as part of our fee structure to offer discounts to smaller bus-inesses”.

The fees are set by council after consultation, and are based on the Food Act-determined risk category the business falls under, she explains.

“The time on-site has to cover certain mandatory and hot topics but is only a proportion of the work which is included in the fees.

“Work also includes pre-audit preparation, travel, writing reports, updating the Ministry for Primary Industries, closing out the audit, invoicing, and generating certificates.”

Morris says some small businesses fall into cat-egories that mean they’re exempt from registration.

“We encourage people to contact council if they have any concerns about businesses either not being registered or if they have concerns about the safety of food.”