PM asked to stop Jan 3 QLDC "ambush" closure of Q'town's waterfront market

by Peter Newport - Dec 29, 2023

Over forty Queenstown waterfront market stallholders say they've been ambushed by the Queenstown Lakes District Council into being put out of business and they've written to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon asking him to intervene. 

The shutdown, effective in just a few days on January 3, 2024, is in spite of the council issuing “dozens and dozens” of new licences over the past 6 months to multiple stall holders. Many of the new licences were issued just before Christmas. 

The popular lakefront stalls have recently been targeted by QLDC enforcement officers who say they will now (from January 3rd, 2024) enforce technical rules that demand 50 metres separation between stalls and that stall holders change location once every hour.

PM Luxon and local MP Joseph Mooney. Mr Mooney has told Crux today "on the surface of it the QLDC conditions do not look reasonable."

The entire waterfront area is only around 200 metres long meaning that only four stalls would survive - and on the condition they moved their entire operation once an hour, every hour.

It’s an issue that has already been taken straight to the PM Christopher Luxon and local MP Joseph Mooney by one stall holder, Jan Nicholson (main image above), who sells possum slippers under the trading name Kozy Toez.

Mr Mooney told Crux today that "on the surface of it the conditions don't seem reasonable." He says he's asked QLDC staff to explain their approach and potentially find a solution. No reply has yet been received. 

Mrs Nicholson met the Prime Minister, and chatted briefly, when he visited Queenstown on the election campaign trail on September 7th. Now Mrs Nicholson wants Mr Luxon to save the livelihoods of the forty stallholders who say that they want a meeting with the council to find an amicable solution. She's also written to the new Tourism Minister Matt Doocey saying:

"The paid council officials (NOT the elected officials) have decided to clear out all the street vendors from the QT waterfront

"We all (up to 40 of us) make our living from the waterfront and our lovely tourists. We bring vibrancy to the town and are a friendly face greeting our tourists from all over the world !!

"They gave us notice 2 days before Christmas and then go away happily on their holidays whilst we all spend our holidays stressing to the max about our livelehoods."

In a timeline leading up to the shutdown Mrs Nicholson says that stallholders were lured into giving council staff all of the their contact details so that they could be issued with a new licence, dated December 19, 2023 - just before Christmas.

But it turns out that the newly issued licence is the mechanism that the QLDC plans to use to close the markets entirely - on January 3rd. The newly minted licence states that it is good until July 10th, 2024, but apparently links behind the scenes to the "impossible" conditions that include the 50 metres separation rule and the requirement to move all the stalls every hour. In a copy of the new licence supplied to Crux the 50 metre separation and hourly move conditions are not included.

The waterfront stalls have been a popular feature of the lake frontage for locals and tourists, for over 10 years.

Mrs Nicholson told Crux today that the forty stallholders are "stunned" by the move which they believe was triggered by one nearby shop owner complaining about one "fly by night" stall holder.

QLDC enforcement officer Caleb White - stall holders say that he's refused to meet with them.

She says one long term stall holder, a food vendor with a QLDC licence, has just invested $20,000 in new equipment, money that now stands to be lost due to the impending closure of the market.

Mrs Nicholson says the council shutdown is being managed by QLDC Enforcement Officer Caleb White and that all requests to him for a meeting between stallholders and the council have been refused.

She says the council is using the holiday period to manage the shutdown "under the radar" while key people are on leave. She says that she believes that elected QLDC councillors are not aware of the decision to close the popular market that's been running for over 10 years with the full knowledge and support of the council.

The stallholders say that they've have been previously told by QLDC "we are reactive, not proactive, so nothing will be enforced". 

It now appears that the council enforcement officers not only plan to break that promise, but use it to permanently close the entire waterfront market.

Crux understands that the stall holders who use the Earnslaw Park grassed area each Saturday are not affected by the council action.

"I'll be looking to sign on for the unemployment benefit on January 4th" Mrs Nicholson told Crux today, clearly not hopeful of a council back down. 

QLDC defends lakefront market shut down.

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