Subash Raizada must pay three former staff an ERA hearing has found. Photo: Supplied.

Restaurant boss’s wage cheat costs thousands

The owner of an Indian restaurant who tried to cheat staff out of wages has been ordered to pay them nearly $60,000.

Blenheim man Subash Raizada, 57, also known as Roger Raizada, owns Maharajah India Ltd.

Staff accused him of harassment and trying to pressure them to hand over money or risk their immigration status.

The Employment Relations Authority found in favour of three former employees, Vibha Sood, Kulijeet Kaur and Akshay Dame.

The announcement come as it was revealed the business was to be struck off the Register of Companies.

In his findings, chief of the Employment Relations Authority James Crichton says the company, of which Raizada was sole director, owed the trio money.

“I am satisfied that Maharaja India Limited owes a total sum of $59,390.47 in respect to minimum wages and holiday pay for the credit of three employees, namely Ms Vibha Sood, Ms Kuljeet Kaur and Mr Akshay Dame”.

Raizada’s son bought the Seymour St restaurant in 2015, changing it to Raizada Indian Restaurant.

An Employment Relations Authority (ERA) hearing in Blenheim in May was told how a labour inspectorate began an investigation in March 2015.

Staff claimed several incidents where they had been underpaid or not paid at all.

Kaur revealed she was told by Raizada that her visa was dependant on him and that she should pay him $35,000.

Dame did a week’s work with Raizada, as a trial. In a statement Raizada told him he would need to pay $35,000 if he wanted the manager’s position. Dame turned him down.

Raizada responded by saying the staff had never worked for him and accused them of fraud.

“But those stories simply are not credible,” Crighton says.

“Mr Raizada’s position appeared to be that none of these folk actually worked for the company and that the documents were simply structured to suggest that they had worked there.

“Ms Sood gave evidence that she had to pay back wages to the employer after she had been paid them.

“The evidence from Ms Sood’s bank account quite clearly supports her testimony that she was paid wages and then was required to rebate some of that payment either back to Mr Raizada or to another employee who then provided that sum to Mr Raizada,” he wrote.

Raizada was convicted in the Blenheim District Court on representative charges following guilty pleas to offences under the Immigration Act 2009 and the Crimes Act 1961 in February 2019.

He was ordered to pay $5000 to Kaur in part recompense of her managerial services and complete 80 hours of community service.

Timber mill branches out to boost business

Plans to revitalize a Marlborough sawmill could be a huge boom for Picton’s port and the region’s economy.

Kaituna Sawmill and Nelson Forests Ltd have revealed plans to boost production.

The move is set to see an increase in jobs and see Port Marlborough expand from exporting around 700,000 tonnes of logs a year to hitting the million mark.

Both companies are owned by Australian company OneFortyOne.

Executive general manager New Zealand Lees Seymour says the company is exploring opportunities to process more logs on shore and to develop alternative wood chip markets.

“In order to increase sawmill capacity there is the need to develop new woodchip markets, you can’t do one without the other.”

The businesses have signed an agreement that highlights how the two companies will work together through the feasibility phase and, if successful, through to implementation.

“The relationship we have with Port Marlborough is outstanding and we are very happy to be able to work with such a professional team,” says Lees.

Nelson Forests have hired a project manager investigate the building of a facility that would enable the export of wood chips from Port Marlborough.

Kaituna Sawmill currently processes about 115,000 tonnes of log a year.

Located just off SH6, a short distance from the Wairau River bridge, the mill employs more than 60 people.

Plans to increase capacity would see an improvement in returns for

Marlborough forest owners and improved environmental outcomes for the region, says Lees.

Port Marlborough CEO Rhys Welbourn says he is “delighted” to working with Nelson Forests.

“This is good news for the port and good news for Marlborough.”

Former Junction Hotel owner Mike Pink. Photo: Supplied.

Bar boss pay out to “humiliated” manager

A humiliated part-time bar manager whose bosses told her she had a “superiority complex” has won a $28,606 payout.

Dawn Langdon told the Employment Relations Authority that her job at the Junction Hotel left her “so stressed” she was forced to resign.

Owner Mike Pink was ordered to pay compensation of $18,000 plus additional costs including reimbursement of lost wages, holiday pay and Kiwisaver contributions.

An Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision released last week by authority Helen Doyle found in favour of Dawn.

She ruled the Marlborough woman was “unjustifiably constructively dismissed and unjustifiably disadvantaged.”

“Mike Pink is ordered to pay to Dawn Langdon the sum of $18,000 without deduction being compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

“There were other actions by Mr Pink in breach of good faith obligations that seriously damaged the employment relationship,” she says in her findings.

The findings come after Mike told the tribunal hearing that the Junction Hotel was owned by a company and not himself personally.

The ERA could find no evidence of that, they said.

Dawn worked at the pub, which has since been sold, from 1 August 2017 to 4 March 2018. She was paid $16 gross per hour.

She told Mike about worries she had concerning bullying behaviour directed at her but says she was made to feel like she was the cause of the problem.

In response to what he called a “tirade” of emails about the situation, Mike told his unhappy employee that she owed him $500.

“In view of the constant e-mails, personal meetings and other contacts you have bombarded me with since you commenced employment with us … I feel it only fair that I should be recompensed for the time wasted unnecessarily.

“I have had to spend hours in replying to your tirades which has kept me away from doing my normal work and as I am partially incapacitated at present, I find this totally unacceptable.

“I think that a figure of $500 is fair and I expect to receive this within 7 days,” he wrote.

Mike also claimed he had lost customers and in one case a company has “discontinued to lodge and eat here” with a loss of up to $1000 per week.

Langdon resigned on the grounds that her employer had breached his duty.

She later said at an ERA investigation meeting in Blenheim on 23 May that Pink made her feel like a “complete failure”.

“I am extremely upset and humiliated over the way I have been treated, when measured against the commitment and loyalty I have shown your business during my employment,” she wrote.

Mike and wife Hazel have sent bought the Wave Café and Courtyard in Picton.

Volunteers, from left, Breanna Holt, Michelle Dawson, Olivia Cooke and Sophia Wills have started a thrift shop. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Students shift to thrift

It used to display books, but shopping savvy students have set up a thrift shop in an old library to encourage browsers of a different kind.

Inside the former library at Marlborough Girls’ College, student volunteers have set up a clothes and accessories store.

They hope the move will help their peers save money as well as encouraging recycling.

Year 12 student Breanna Holt says the idea for the small store, named Hidden Treasures, was sparked after a visit to Nelson College for Girls.

“We looked at what they had done and thought we could do it too.

“It’s much easier to get to than say Savemart where students have to drive to and most of our items are more affordable,” she says.

Clothes sell for under five dollars or $15 for well-known labels.

After getting the idea okayed by principal Mary-Jeanne Lynch, a subcommittee of the college’s Enviroschools group swung into action.

Volunteers, from left, Olivia Cooke, Michelle Dawson, Breanna Holt and Sophia Wills have started a thrift shop. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Volunteers, from left, Olivia Cooke, Michelle Dawson, Breanna Holt and Sophia Wills have started a thrift shop. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

A competition to see which class could donate the most saw clothes come flooding in says English teacher Michelle Dawson.

“We held a competition to see what form class could get the most donations with the prize being a pizza-lunch.

“I’ve taught most of the girls at some point and it’s a real pleasure to be working with them again.”

The college is working towards gaining its gold Enviroschools award.

Student Olivia Cooke says the recycling aspect is an important part of the decision to set up the shop.

The store also stocks a range of clothes in the school’s house colours to make it easier for students to find the right coloured clothes at the right price.

Volunteers join a six-week roster and take it in turns to oversee sales.

Student Sophie Ellis says with both the girls’ and boys’ colleges preparing to collocate, a future thrift store would have to expand its range.

“There’ll be opportunity to grow and one day it will have to cater for boys too.

“When we’ve all moved on, it’ll be our legacy”.

Funds raised through sales will be put towards bettering the college environment.

Kea Energy's Naomi and Campbell McMath. Photo: Supplied.

Solar farm project powers-up

A Christchurch company is making the most of Marlborough’s sunny reputation with plans to install a two-megawatt solar farm.

The family-owned power generation company Kea Energy is currently in talks with local energy distributor Marlborough Lines to deliver renewable electricity.

Consents have been granted by Marlborough District Council for the solar farm up the Wairau Valley.

Kea Energy managing director Campbell McMath says the solar farm project is slowly coming together.

“We’ve done the initial application [with Marlborough Lines] and they’ve requested some information about the effects that the solar will have on the system”.

The proposed plan for the two megawatt solar farm. Photo: Supplied.
The proposed plan for the two megawatt solar farm. Photo: Supplied.

An engineering company is analysing the effects on the power network with a report due within the fortnight, Campbell says.

“We’re trying for two megawatts but it’s all negotiated with Marlborough Lines.”

“If the power lines can’t handle that, we’ll have to reduce it or find clever ways to store it or send it out at non-peak generation time.”

Campbell says two mega-watts is enough energy to power up to 500 homes.

“During the peak times, it would be powering the Wairau Valley.

“Wairau Valley would be fed from solar,” he says.

Kea Energy own and operate hydro and solar plants in Christchurch, generating around 2.2GWH of electricity every year – close to 30 per cent of Christchurch’s locally generated energy.

Wairau Valley would be fed from solar if the proposed solar generation plant goes ahead. Photo: Supplied.
Wairau Valley would be fed from solar if the proposed plant goes ahead. Photo: Supplied.

“If it was a dirty energy, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Campbell says.

“It’s economical and green which attracts us to it.”

He says Kea Energy take control of all aspects of the production of the powerplant, which allows them to build the solar farm for cheaper.

“We do all the importing of the panels, the importing of all the equipment, we do all the installation ourselves and we do all the engineering ourselves,” Campbell says.

“Once this goes ahead, we’re going to do some analysis and if that’s all promising we’re going to start looking at a much larger one.

“We’re still determining the area, whether it would be in Tasman or Marlborough or up in the Hawkes Bay area.”

Hairdresser Courtney Stevenson has big plans to open a free community salon. Photo: Matt Brown.

Hairdresser’s cut price community dream

A hairdresser has set her heart on opening a community salon – offering beauty services at a snip of usual prices.

Kind-hearted Courtney Stevenson from Blenheim wants to help people who may be tight on funds spruce up their image.

The mum of two hopes the move will help boost flagging confidence levels.

And she’s also taking aim at nits, which she says are “rife” in the region.

“I’ve got pretty much everything I need for the salon, but I thought I would launch the Givealittle page and see what help the community could pop into it as well,” Courtney says.

Courtney has already organised space for a beautician, salon and barber, at Crossroads on Blenheim’s Main St.

“It’s based on look good, feel good, putting a pep in someone’s day,” she says.

“It’s a space where people can come and have their hair cut, women can have their eyebrows done.

“It’s a space to come and tidy up and feel good about yourself, really.”

After having an operation on her back, Courtney says she was “umming and ahhing” about returning to her job at a local salon.

A hairdresser for 17 years, she says the community salon isn’t going to be about making money.

“When it first launches, I’m going to offer a few hours in the mornings when my kids are at kindie,” she says.

“My kids are getting to school age and I’ve just noticed so many kids with overgrown hair.

“There’s loads and loads of kiddies whose parents just can’t afford to get them a haircut.”

She says nits are a problem that are getting “worse and worse” in classrooms.

“Salons don’t offer in salon treatment,” she says.

“Just speaking to mums and teachers, it is something the cost comes into.

“It’s so expensive for parents to be spending $30 or $40 every week on these reoccurring nits”.

Courtney estimates it will cost around $5000 to get her salon “set up and looking good”.

Trained as a barber and says she plans on doing men’s shaves too.

“The service is free, but also available to anyone.”

Courtney says a donation box will be available for those wanting to put something towards their new do.

“But ultimately, it is a free service,” she says.

“The women’s refuge has a lot of people they can refer, some place where they can feel good, have their nails painted and a bit of a pep really.”

She says a new haircut is a great confidence boost for upcoming job interviews.

“I think it’s really needed,” she says.

To donate, visit givealittle.co.nz/cause/help-others-feel-good

Geoff Pybus and daughter, Ever, at the soon to be rebranded Cafe Home. Photo: Matt Brown.

Greek cafe to make itself at home

After 11 years of coffee and food, the owners of Café Home are preparing to call it a day.

Owners Geoff and Nicole Pybus have sold their business, and in it’s place a new owner has planned a Greek café, Eleni.

Nicknamed ‘Miss 100,000 Volts’, incoming owner Helene Marchant is champing at the bit to unleash her vision and unique
Mediterranean flavour on Marlborough.

Incoming owner Helene Marchant. Photo: Matt Brown.
Incoming owner Helene Marchant. Photo: Matt Brown.

Helene, who has lived in Renwick for the last 20 years, says she was sipping coffee at the café late in April when she was struck with inspiration.

“I asked Geoff if he would like to sell, he said to the right person,” she says.

“I said, would I be the right person? He said yes, so we did a deal.”

And Helene has been “firing on all cylinders” getting her ideas and plans for the new eatery out of her head and into reality.

“How beautiful would it be to have a Greek café in the middle of Blenheim,” she says.

Cafe Home owner Geoff Pybus says he isn’t sure what he will do next, but was looking forward to regular nine to five hours so he could spend more time with his children.

The cafe will be rebranded as Eleni. Photo: Matt Brown.
The cafe will be rebranded as Eleni. Photo: Matt Brown.

“[A Greek cafe] is different to what everyone else is doing, it’s going to be cool,” he says.

He hopes that the new restaurant would be open at night.

An accountant by profession, Helene moved to Renwick to work in the wine industry with her husband from Adelaide, South Australia 23 years ago.

Taking over a cafe is a “huge” change of tack, she says the only experience she has running a café is drinking “copious amounts” of coffee and eating fabulous food.

But Helene’s parents, who emigrated from Greece to Adelaide when they were young, had a background in hospitality.

“My aunties, uncles, my grandparents, it must be in the blood there somewhere,” Helene says.

“My mother’s family ran a whole lot of cafes and restaurants and bakeries.

“The food gets drummed into you from an early age, and I’m a great cook,” she says.

Helene says the change of ownership is a new beginning.

“I’m a businesswoman, I’m a resourceful woman and I’d like to think I have what it takes to make Eleni successful,” she says.

“I see an opportunity, and I just go for it.

“One thing I’m not going to do is change the food structure that they have at the moment, and the coffee.

“We have the most amazing coffee.

Helene plans to introduce Greek coffee and meals over time.

“I’m trying to get a liquor license at the moment because the Mediterranean diet is all about food and enjoying it with a glass of wine or beer.”

The cafe will close for renovations on 30 July.

Helene hopes they will open the doors to the new café by 5 August.

Helene says the outgoing owners, Geoff and Nicole leave big shoes to fill.

“And they obviously knew it was time to sell,” she says.

“They’re well respected within the area and I hope I can do as wonderful a job as they have.”

The Queen St store has no immediate plans of reopening. Photo: Matt Brown.

Brakes put on cycle shop

Blenheim’s oldest bicycle shop sits dark, brown paper covering the windows.

What initially began as a “temporary rejuvenation” has dragged on at AvantiPlus Spokesman Cycles to months of locked doors.

And the doors will remain locked, until the current owner can entice a manager to the region.

AvantiPlus Spokesman Cycles owner Christian Hoff Nielsen says the shop will stay closed until a new manager and part-owner is found to run the once-successful cycle store.

Despite offering a salary and the opportunity to own the shop, he says no one wants to move to the region.

“The last manager I had in line for this shop flatly refused to come and work in Blenheim,” Christian says.

“It seems that I just can’t entice anyone to come there.

“It’s really peculiar because it’s not been one, it’s been three or four really good candidates two of which have continued working for me in Queenstown and Waiheke.”

First opened in 1984 by Bill Mitchell, the shop began its life as the Marlborough Sports store.

After a brief stint as a triathlon centre, the advent of BMX racing saw Avanti knocking on Bill’s door, seeing the beginning of a successful 30-year partnership.

But the search for a manager-turned-owner to continue the legacy is proving much harder than Christian thought.

The store is ready to go, for the right person, Christian says.

He has kept a bicycle mechanic and shop assistant on a retainer, paying them to “sit at home, twiddle their thumbs and be bored.”

“At this point we’re even looking at giving it away, but I just can’t find anyone,” he says.

Christian owns five other cycle shops around New Zealand and bought the Blenheim store for $400,000 four years ago.

He says he can’t just on sell the business due to licensing agreements.

“There are certain criteria I have to fulfil,” he says.

“One or two of the people that have looked interesting have not had the bicycling know-how to be acceptable.

“You do have to have an owner-operator that has a certain cycling background for them to be palatable for the licensed brands that we carry.”

Christian says the right person can start with a salary and get ownership rights down the line.

“What I proposed to the last person is that after six months they own 10 per cent, after another six months, another 10 per cent and so forth.

“They basically work their way into the company,” he says.

Christian says the previous owner, Bill has been “fantastic”, he feels he owes him and the spirit of the shop to keep the business in town.

“I’ve had people wanting to pledge money, and I don’t know what to say,” Christian says.

“What we want is another person to stand at the counter with his wife or his or her son, daughters, for it to be a family business.”

Taylor Pass Honey Co’s plant supervisor Troy Appleton and operations manager Richard Hopkins. Photo: Paula Hulburt

Sweet taste of success for honey makers

Honey company staff have tasted victory after scooping four awards at a top national competition.

Taylor Pass Honey Co. won three gold awards and one bronze for their liquid honey, honeycomb and honeydew honey.

They were also awarded two trophies, one for best liquid honey and best comb honey at the 2019 Pi-a-ora Apiculture NZ awards in Rotorua.

For CEO Richard Green, the win was a team effort.

Some of the awards the honey business has recently achieved. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Some of the awards the honey business has recently achieved. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

“This is recognition for the whole team and a credit to the skills of the whole team.

“We’re really proud as our flavours are where we do well; one of our unique selling points is that our flavours are very special”.

With around 40 permanent and part-time staff, including 24 beekeepers, Taylor Pass Honey Co started 27 years ago.

It’s gone from strength to strength exporting honey all over the world.

With 10,500 hives, each housing around 100,000 bees, the company is the biggest honey producer in the South Island.

Operations manager Richard Hopkins says the bees from one hive fly the equivalent of three times around the world during the honey production season.

“They work hard. It’s a little bit of art and a little bit of science. It’s about knowing what the honey is and how it behaves during the creaming process.”

At the packaging plant in Riverlands, the honey goes through a scrupulous filtering system.

From filtering to packaging, around 600kg an hour goes through the process during peak season,

“Each tank holds three tons of honey and it stays there for three to four days to control the crystallization process.

“That’s the art of producing honey and being in control, knowing what the honey is and how it behaves while crystallization occurs,” says Richard.

Each jar of honey can be traced back to a specific hive site.

It is this attention to detail, says Richard that helps make the honey an award-winner.

“A lot of the guys make honey especially for the competition but Taylor Pass won by pulling a sample of the pack line; it’s not one we made specifically.

“They’re all good”.

Plant Supervisor Troy Appleton is an essential team member.

With two seasons behind him, he knows plenty about how the company’s award-winning honey is made.

“It’s down to the bees to do their thing before we do ours.”

The company has partnered with other retailers in town and are selling honey through these outlets including The Vines Village off Rapaura Road.

Janet Steggle hope the Marlborough Creative Artisans new shop will be a big hit. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Overseas buyers get crafty

A posse of Picton crafters have been making their mark across the world as their work gets snapped up by overseas buyers.

The Marlborough Creative Artisans are set to mark seven years since they first opened their doors.

And with a new, larger premises in Mariners Mall in the heart of Picton, there is plenty for the 30-strong team to celebrate.

Members hope the new High St venue will boost sales locally when the number of tourists drops off after cruise ship season closed.

Artisan knitter Janet Steggle says the new site, in the former post office building, is more prominent.

“We’re lucky that we didn’t have to do any work to it, except a bit of cleaning.

“As we’re a co-operative, we all got involved, along with husbands and family, and spent a whole weekend moving and arranging.

“It’s a lovely, bright, airy space with great light,” she says.

A range of work is on display, from colourful knitwear and water colours to jewellery and baby clothes.

The shop attracts a variety of customers, with many making the effort to keep in touch once they’ve left New Zealand.

Janet has seen some of her creations end-up in places from Alaska to Tasmania.

“Customers want to buy something unique, hand-crafted and locally made.

“We’ve sold things that go all over the world. Cruise ship passengers especially need things that are easy to take back with them.

“Some of the ships have craft groups on board or knitting groups and passengers are really excited when they see what we have on offer,” she says.

“I’ve had emails from Alaska and photos from Tasmania from people who have bought my knitwear”.

The shop’s big draw is the fact that everything on sale is made locally from people who live in the region.

“You have to live in Marlborough and make the work yourself,” says Janet.