QLDC's $1,000 a day in supermarket bills: *Updated
Crux has now received a response from QLDC that is published below**
Financial documents from QLDC have revealed that the council spent over $378,000 at two local supermarkets over the past year and a half.
$262,320 was spent at Fresh Choice in Gorge Road Queenstown and $151,750 at New World Wanaka during the 2019/2020 financial year and the current 2021 period. That equates to over $1,000 for each business day of the year.
Crux asked for details on the unusual spend from QLDC’s communications team on Monday this week (June 14), but the council replied with a decision to treat our request as an LGOIMA (Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act) request rather than provide an answer. (See below for QLDC's response following publication of our story.)
A letter from QLDC tells Crux:
So, we will have to wait until July 9th to provide an answer - that's if the council decides to agree to our information request. It is not clear to Crux why a simple response could not have been provided by QLDC on the same day as we asked the question.
** Update: Crux received the following response from QLDC just hours after publication of our story:
"The expenditure with Fresh Choice Supermarket relates to the 2020 Civil Defence Covid-19 national emergency response. QLDC took the lead locally in purchasing and distributing food vouchers for people who were eligible as part of the national Covid-19 response. All costs were reimbursed by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
This was a process developed specifically in response to the 2020 Covid-19 crisis. No other providers were used prior to this time as this expenditure relates solely to the Covid-19 emergency response
QLDC is committed to the principle of availability and is pleased to be assisting you with your request."
(Editor's note: We assume that this response also relates to New World Wanaka.)
We tried contacting the owner of Queenstown’s Fresh Choice Supermarket, Tony Wild, but he did not respond to our messages.
There is no supermarket spend by QLDC that we can find in previous years, indicating that the situation might be Covid related. (*now confirmed.)
Mayor Jim Boult issued this statement via the QLDC website on April 2nd 2020
“We can continue providing food packages or vouchers to those in need but the scale of the problem is much wider than that. We urgently need the government’s support to provide emergency benefits to our migrant workers who contribute so much when times are good to keep our district running,” he said.
Given the lack of a detailed response from QLDC to our enquiries we can’t yet determine exactly how the supermarket spend was procured.