Rotorua holiday park under fire for worker exploitation labelled 'disgusting' in online reviews

The disgraced owner of a holiday business behind the exploitation of three migrant workers has also come under fire from paying customers, many lambasting the holiday park's "disgusting" accommodation.

On Monday, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced that Shenshen Guan and her North Island holiday business New Zealand Fusion International LTD - which operates Golden Springs Holiday Park - are required to pay $680,350 in penalties and unpaid wages to three migrant workers.

Located in the rural Rotorua District community of Reporoa, Golden Springs Holiday Park has been hit by a barrage of negative online reviews from less-than-impressed holidaymakers.

On the travel company and website TripAdvisor, Golden Springs Holiday Park holds a "poor" rating of 1.5 out of five due to a number of reviews dated between December 2018 and December 2011.

In its latest TripAdvisor review, posted in December last year, an Aucklander said they "went to sleep in the car" due to the condition of the holiday park.

"I went to sleep in the car because the place was really disgusting. At some point I got too afraid and tried to return to the room. I found rats eating the bread we had," the person wrote, attaching a photo of a shopping bag seemingly chewed by rodents.

"This place must be inspected and closed ASAP."

A customer from Cape Town in South Africa, who also used the accommodation last December, noted its "general state of disrepair" and "poorly maintained" facilities.

A traveller from Israel's Tel Aviv labelled the holiday park "a real scam".

"Moldy, dusty, dirty, full of spider webs... terrible kitchen - I could not even touch it. Same for the bathroom and the smelly sofa. I don't understand how this place is still [open]. I could not believe such a place exists before seeing it with my own eyes."

Other complaints included "rat poo everywhere", "bad customer service", a "showerhead stuck together with masking tape" and "dirty" towels and dishes - along with a warning to "stay away".

A number of reviewers noted that the holiday park may have been "nice at one stage", with one saying it "would have been a gem decades ago".

"This place would have been beautiful back in the [1980s and 1970s]," said one.

"It looked like it had been nice at one point (back in the 70s) but has been left to go to a sad state. It is really sad because it has some aspects that could be great, like the pool and thermal areas, but they are in such a dirty state that I wouldn't use them," wrote a customer from Christchurch.

The one "excellent" TripAdvisor review came from a Wellingtonian after a two-night stay in December 2012, which praised its location, thermal baths and "excellent value for money".

A few reviews from 2014 gave the accommodation four out of five stars, an Australian customer dubbing the park "a hidden Kiwi gem".

Seventy-nine reviews on Google give Golden Springs an average rating of 2.9 out of five, the latest review from November praising its "friendly staff".

But two of the park's former migrant workers, who each paid a $45,000 "bond" to Shenshen Guan before travelling from China to New Zealand "under false premises of being paid", compared their working conditions to "a nightmare" and "prison".

Following an investigation, the court heard that the workers received no payment despite labouring seven days a week. Guan said "free" food and accommodation on site should be enough compensation, claiming she couldn't pay them as they had no working visas after altering their employment contracts.

New Zealand Fusion and Guan are banned from employing staff for 18 months.