More than 100 Queenstown restaurants face fee hikes of up to 55 per cent from not-for-profit council company Lakes Environmental.
A new Food Premises Grading Bylaw set to come in on October 7 will be accompanied by new fees for annual food-hygiene checks.
Restaurants with 50 seats or more will be charged from $485-$605 for annual hygiene checks, compared with a present flat fee of $390.
LE admits to seizing the chance to alter fees.
As the company told its council owners in June when first pitching the new legislation: “The introduction of this bylaw has been identified as an opportune time to review the fee schedule for food premises.”
However, LE compliance boss Lee Webster tells Mountain Scene the new pricing regime simply matches fees more closely to actual costs.
“Where we have premises that are causing more issues, or are large and taking up more of our time,” Webster says, “they should pay more than the restaurateur who’s doing a great job and isn’t as large.”
Queenstown-Lakes’ 370 or so food premises have been split into four “levels”.
Dairies and service stations are level two, delicatessens, takeaways and smaller restaurants with fewer than 50 seats are level three – and restaurants seating 50 or more are level four.
Within each level, inspection fees are then scaled by how well or badly each establishment is rated – the worse the hygiene, the higher the fee.
Webster says large restaurants charged the highest price of $605 would have scored the worst rating – category D, or “unacceptable” – and would be temporarily closed.
“Then we’re going to have to go back and do re-visits so they should have to pay more money,” he says.
Level one to three premises with the highest hygiene ratings will pay less than the present $390, Webster says.
Official grading certificates must be displayed at the entrance of each establishment.