Bullying by islanders claimed

A tourism operator on Stewart Island says bullying has continued to disrupt her business.

At a Stewart Island Community Board meeting this week, Ruggedy Ranges Wilderness Experience owner-operator Furhana Ahmad said she believed personal prejudices against her had a negative impact on her business.

Speaking in the public forum of the meeting, she said her concern that she was the target of a bylaw to stop her from promoting her company at the wharf was not being taken seriously.

She told board members she had operated her company, her sole source of income, on the island for more than 13 years and had actively promoted Stewart and Ulva islands and New Zealand to people, locally and overseas.

However, her business appeared to get less work as visitors were not informed about her services, she said.

After the meeting, Ms Ahmad said she believed anti-competitive behaviour existed on the island.

"I also think there's an element of insiders versus outsiders, with groups of people working together to protect their own personal interests," she said.

"I'm just a New Zealand immigrant. I don't have a strong connection to the island through ancestry.

"I have a strong personal connection to the island, but it's not enough for some people on the island to have respect for who I am and what I am," Ms Ahmad said.

Board chairman Jon Spraggon said the Trading in Public Places Bylaw 2008 was being discussed by the community board as it was due to be reviewed next year.

When asked for his response to Ms Ahmad's claims, he declined.

Yesterday, Southland district councillor Bruce Ford, of the Stewart Island ward, also declined to comment on claims of people protecting their own interests.

It is not the first time Ms Ahmad has spoken out.

In April last year, she said her business had been the target of "a string of actions", including complaints about her off-site signs and attempts to keep advertisements about her business out of an official visitor guide.

The Southland Times