Wednesday, April 24, 2024

This has caused serious harm to good Howick businesses

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The public rely on Auckland Council, and accredited mainstream press, TV and radio to publish factual information in an accurate manner especially when they publish information relating to the health and safety of the public.

But what happens to businesses when such information about them is sensationalised, misconstrued or falsely reported.

Jessica Chand opened her café business, Vanilla Plant Based Kitchen, in Picton Street, Howick in November 2022 after fitting out the shop in an attractive manner. Her hard work and that of her energetic staff soon saw a steady clientele coming through her doors tempted by her tasty, quality vegan delights.

When a council inspector visited October 2023 for a random check, as they do, Jessica was advised she needed to improve her temperature checking and recording, and needed a new ambient cabinet. Jessica had always had an A grade certification and, as a responsible operator, she got to work and met the requirements of the council within nine days. It would have been sooner but the inspector was not available. For nine days her certification was downgraded, then immediately restored to A Grade Certification once requested changes had been complied with, and re-inspected.

So why then did the NZ Herald publish an article on February 8, 2024 under the heading of “Auckland’s filthiest restaurants revealed after council inspections”, implying that Vanilla Plant Based Kitchen had a D food rating due to pest infestation, and posted photographs of pest infestations of other establishments, implying these images were taken at Vanilla Plant Based Kitchen. This was then taken up and posted online by NZ Herald, RNZ and 1News, and to add insult to injury, the article was then shared on-line by our own council representative.

The article has now been taken down by NZ Herald, RNZ and 1News but the sensationalist headings still remain online with Vanilla Plant Based Kitchen named.

And where is the public apology? Where is the redress for the immeasurable harm to the reputation of this viable business? As a customer who has watched this business and its reputation grow, I am incensed and ask the question of council and media outlets why, what, who, how… the hell?

I understand other Howick businesses have been similarly affected. I hope they collectively get together with a community-minded lawyer, and gain redress.

Marilyn Bakker

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