Busy body slows entrepreneur

A 14 year-old running his own business ought to be something to celebrate, but a busy body has slowed him down:

A young Cromwell entrepreneur who runs a garden maintenance company has been banned from riding his lawnmower to jobs.

Johnny O’Neill, 14, set up his successful business J.C. O’Neill Contracting in 2017 and until recently had been driving to jobs around the small Central Otago township on his ride-on 780cc lawnmower.

However, he has been forced to employ a driver to take him to jobs or tow the mower behind his bike after he received a written warning not to drive the mower.

“Police called and said I needed to come in and have a chat about the ride-on mower because someone had complained … It’s too big and apparently has too much power.”

The mower, powered by hydrostatic transmission, travelled up to 5kmh towing a trailer with equipment, and would be lucky to get downhill at 10kmh, he said. . . 

“It’s not exactly going fast … I would class it safer than a push bike. What’s the difference with me going down the footpath with a weed eater on the side and someone mowing their lawn next to the footpath … or a Lime scooter or e-bike that are a lot more dangerous than what a ride on lawn mower would be?” 

He was disappointed a member of the public would try and “put their foot in the way”. The setback was going to cost $25,000 in wages employing someone else, as well as costs running another vehicle.

“It’s taken a lot of long hours and long days to get where we are at. We now service 293 clients a week so it is a bit of a logistical exercise. I do 40 of those myself and the staff do the other 250 … I reckon it is a lot better thing to be doing than sitting at home on your Xbox.”

His company had a turnover of more than $100,000 last year with only himself and a part-time worker, he said.

Police declined to comment for “privacy reasons”.

A NZ Transport Agency spokesman said enforcement in Johnny’s situation was at the discretion of police. . . 

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, is doing her best to help Johnny.

“This country needs talented young people like this who are prepared to get off the couch and give things a go, and they don’t need to be held back by regulation and red tape.”

Amen to that.

The old days weren’t all good, but in times gone by police wouldn’t have worried about “privacy” and would have been more likely to tell the busy-body to mind her or his own business and leave the young entrepreneur to go about his.

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