Regional | Flaxmere

Flaxmere bands together in protest against the loss of its only supermarket

Located in the Flaxmere Village the Supermarket is the only one-stop shop for fresh food

The Hawke’'s Bay community of Flaxmere is about to lose a nearly 50-year old supermarket and will be left with a tiny Four Square that isn’t full service and vegetables growers selling limited products on the edge of the district.

The Flaxmere New World supermarket is the local grocery outlet for the community and neighbouring communities alike.

Foodstuffs North Island says it has declined to renew its lease for the property, which is to end in March .

“We’ve decided not to renew the lease because, even with considerable investment in a refurbishment by the landlord, the building wouldn’t be brought up to the standard we want for both our team and customers,” Foodstuffs North Island spokesperson says.

The Hastings suburb, which houses more than 11,000 people, is a low socioeconomic area where the only competition for the supermarket is from local vegetable growers offering lowing prices for some of their produce.

Foodstuffs says closing the store on February 25 isn’t something we’d ever do lightly”’.

“”Foodstuffs North Island, the co-op behind New World, Pak’nSave and Four Square has a long and strong commitment to Hawke’'s Bay communities and we want to give our strong reassurance that this hasn’t changed at all.

“Our New World Flaxmere team [members] do a fantastic job for our customers every day and rest assured we’ll be doing the very best that we can to support them into roles in nearby Foodstuffs North Island stores,” the spokesperson says.

How does the community feel?

However, the community is not taking this news lightly, preparing a petition, which so far has gathered over 4000 signatures, and a hikoi in protest at the closure.

Community member and One Voice Community Services Trust chief executive Lindsey Abbott organised a peaceful protest with a short hīkoi to the Flaxmere Village Shopping Centre where a number of people gathered.

“We can’t lose our supermarket - we’ve got so many kaumātua and kuia who rely on this supermarket, Abbott says.

We’ve got many solo whānau out there “who have got no waka and walk here. We’ve got a lot of whānau with disabilities.”

New World employee and long-time Flaxmere resident Tihema Cooper says he supports the protest to keep the supermarket in the community.

“I’ve been here for 54-years … I still remember this place going up and coming here to shop, so did my parents. We didn’t go into town, we came here. Why? Because it is Flaxmere,” he says.

The Grocery Commissioner has been asked for comment on the issue.

Competition issues plus cost of living

The supermarket sector has been shaken up in the past year with new rules and a new regulator, the Grocery Commssioner, to improve competition in wholesale operations, clarify and simplify pricing and promotions, good faith bargaining with suppliers and a code of conduct.

And it comes only 19 months after Foodstuffs received resource consent to build its own supermarket, replacing its lease over the shopping village. The village is believed to be owned by Singapore investors.

Meanwhile today, Woolworths Australia has told the Australian Stock Exchange the earnings from its New Zealand chain (the second largest chain in New Zealand), had fallen because of reduced consumer spending and the cost of rebranding from Countdown to Woolworths.

The parent company says its pre-tax earnings are expected to be down about 42 percent to $71 million for the six months ended December.

“The trading performance in New Zealand food has continued to be challenging,” Woolworths Australia says.

But Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci said it remained confident about the prospects for its New Zealand operation and the rebranding programme.