Things are not so happy in the hills of Central Otago.
A project called Happy Hills that aimed to build an eco-friendly tourist village and therapeutic centre has had to hide its website behind a password after running foul of the Financial Markets Authority.
Project founder Hana Fisherova said they were contacted by the authority saying they had reviewed the Happy Hills website and advertising material and found that it did not comply with sections of the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2103.
The authority said some wording on the website could be considered misleading and the proposed partnership might amount to an offer of a financial product.
Ms Fisherova said the website was not advertising any financial product but was simply appealing to people to connect and to take participation in the project.
The group was asking people to participate in a crowd-funded venture and the management team was offering shares to members of the public, with a discount offering for people living in the Central Otago and Lakes region.
Ms Fisherova said after being contacted by the authority they declared on the website that “all actions will be done in the compliance with FMCA (NZ Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 No 69)”, but the authority was not satisfied.
She saw the correspondence from the authority as a “form of bullying” and had written a letter to the Dean of Faculty of Law at Otago University to ask for advice.
The Happy Hills group had been given quotes of up to $7000 from lawyers to help them, which Ms Fisherova felt was not the right way for the development of community projects.
The website had been closed, with the home page now showing an email address to contact and a password required to open the site.
A spokesman for the authority said it was working with the company through some concerns it had about the content of the website.
“The FMA expects any individual or organisation considering raising funds from investors to comply with their legal obligations, and engages with individuals or organisations when it has concerns,” he said.