COVID-19: Auckland meat shop open for 'roaring trade' over lockdown agrees to shut after visit from police

An east Auckland meat shop has agreed to close for the remainder of the COVID-19 lockdown after a complaint and a talking to by police and WorkSafe. 

Wholesale Meats Direct Pakuranga initially stayed open at alert level 4, despite a requirement for all non-essential businesses to close.

Under alert level 4 rules, green grocers, butcheries, bakeries and fishmongers cannot open to customers, with breaches of the health order resulting in up to six months' prison or a $4000 fine.

Wholesale Meats Direct owner Geoff Lamb initially argued the shop was more than just a butchery, as it also sells vegetables and supplies groceries and was allowed to remain open under the same restrictions last year.

However Lamb has now agreed to shut its doors and is now awaiting further clarification of the alert level 4 rules from the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). 

The move comes after a member of the public posted about the business on Reddit over the weekend.

"Today I was walking past Wholesale Meats Direct Pakuranga and they were doing a roaring trade. Customers were allowed in the store and quite a lot were waiting outside all bunched up and only doing a half hearted attempt at social distancing," they wrote.

"It doesn't seem fair on businesses that follow the rules and lose money that their competitors can continue making large profits."

The poster asked fellow Reddit users whether they should file a COVID-19 breach complaint with police. At least one person commented that they would after hearing about it.

Police confirmed to Newshub they had received a complaint from a member of the public about Wholesale Meats Pakuranga staying open at alert level 4.

"Staff have visited the business and have spoken with the owner," a spokesperson said. "We are seeking advice from MBIE with regards to this business's status. The matter is ongoing."

MBIE was unable to provide further details about the specific case due to privacy reasons, but said its role when a complaint was received was to provide guidance to the business about whether it could operate under the rules.

"It is up to businesses to check whether they meet the definition of an alert level 4 business or service," a spokesperson said.

"Complaints are triaged and sent to the relevant enforcement agencies to manage, such as the police, WorkSafe, Customs or the Ministry for Primary Industries depending on the nature of the complaint."

Lamb told Newshub Wholesale Meats Direct Pakuranga was given permission by MBIE to open at alert level 4 last year, but were told to close by WorkSafe in the last week.

"We have been approached this week by a representative of Worksafe NZ who inform us that MBIE are no longer setting the rules for grocery shops and have told us to close our Pakuranga store," he explained.

"We are now complying with their guidelines and have closed that shop, and are still awaiting clarification of what we are, and are not allowed to do under the new rules for level 4."

Lamb says the business is happy to follow all rules and guidelines or trading at alert level 4.

"We are just as committed to ridding this country of this hideous disease as everyone else. It appears the rules have changed from last year and that the people setting the rules have also changed."

Wholesale Meats Direct's Ōtara branch was declared a location of interest by the Ministry of Health last week.

Anyone who was at the store on Saturday, August 21 between 10am and 12pm is advised to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days. If symptoms develop, they are advised to get a test and stay at home until they get a negative test result and until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.