20 Sep 2023

Gastro outbreak rocks Queenstown hospitality industry trying to cope with boil water notice

1:40 pm on 20 September 2023
Richard Scott of Queenstown Ice said their services are in huge demand today.

Richard Scott of Queenstown Ice said their services are in huge demand today. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Queenstown hospitality businesses are scrambling to find ways to remain open without using tap water due to the town's cryptosporidium outbreak.

Only 17 cases have so far been confirmed, but RNZ has spoken to numerous locals who say they have been sick with gastro illnesses over the past few weeks but have not gone to the doctor.

It means Queenstown's many cafes have been told not to use their coffee machines, and fast food joints cannot use their fizzy drinks dispensers. Bars are either importing ice from out of town, or serving drinks without it.

Blair Impey from hospitality group Republic said they brought a trailer of ice up from Invercargill to service their businesses.

Queenstown Ice supplies the town's three ice bars with carving ice, ice glasses and ice sculptures. After dumping all of their affected ice following the boil water notice, owner Richard Scott said he managed to source a UV filter at a cost of about $3000.

Needless to say, his services are in huge demand today.

"I'd say we've done 30 businesses today. And that would just be minimal, like 10 bags each or something, just to keep them going. And then there will be more this evening."

Like many locals RNZ has spoken to over the past few days, Scott said he came down with a gastro illness on Monday last week and was out of action for four days.

"It could have been the same thing or something different. But not everyone is going to a doctor to get tested."

Queenstown Lakes District Council has been criticised for the amount of time it took to issue a boil notice after confirming the cryptosporidium parasite was behind a number of local illnesses.

Scott said he found out from a friend, not the council. "Surely the council would be emailing food businesses? I didn't receive the email until the next day. But I already knew by that stage so I'd already shut everything down."

Damian Brown, owner of Pedro's By The Lake Restaurant, told First Up it had been taking his staff five hours to boil the water needed for service and allowing it to cool.

"We had to buy a lot of bottled water and we are boiling as much water as we can," he said.

They needed it for handwashing, washing dishes, washing vegetables, using it for ice and to drink. Brown said a nearby cafe had stopped serving iced drinks because they did not have enough water to freeze.

"I hope this is only going to be a few days ... but we're all in the same boat here, in the hospitality industry."

Health officials have still not found the source of the illness and said there is no clear pattern to food or water.

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