The need for a Supermarket in the Welcome Bay Ward

At the heart of any community lies the convenience of access to essential services. While the ward thrives with small local businesses and a strong sense of community, the absence of a local supermarket is a noticeable gap. The need for a supermarket is more than a mere convenience; it is about creating a self-sufficient and cohesive community.

The Way Forward

Given the pressing need for a supermarket, I took it upon myself to find out what I can do to make this a reality.

I spoke with Foodstuffs North Island CEO, Chris Quin, who said that the Welcome Bay ward is a "location of interest in our network strategy due to its size and growth." However, he said that "To date the cost of developing the sites has been relatively high and the business case has not been strong enough for us to proceed especially as a co-operative with a local family owning the store and needing to have a shot at a fair return."

Chris said that he is interested in working with me to see if there are any opportunities that could change this picture and kindly introduced me to the Foodstuffs GM of Retail, Lindsay Rowles and Head of Property, Nick Hanson to discuss and plan further.

While I can't talk too much about the plans or business case (commercially sensitive to Foodstuffs), I can confirm that I understand and have been told what is required to achieve a supermarket in the ward and know the necessary steps to take. Below is my opinion on the way forward to build a supermarket. To be clear, this is entirely my opinion and what I have discussed with Foodstuffs will remain confidential at their request.

Firstly, as Chris mentioned development costs are very high, which has created friction for them to invest in our ward. While the idea of constructing on council land has been floated in the past, nothing really came of it. For me, utilising council land emerges as the most viable and pragmatic solution to alleviate some of this friction.

In 2017, the council ran a survey which 1,937 Welcome Bay residents responded to. Of those 1,937 responses, 66.5% were in support of the potential development. 56.3% indicated preference for Waitaha Reserve, 25.3% for Owens Park, and 18.4% for Waipuna Park.

At the time, Mayor Greg Brownless, said in a statement that he "reluctantly" supported the proposal to build on council land. While there are some good reasons for not going ahead, now seven years on we need to realise that a supermarket in the ward is a must have.

For me, developing Owens Park seems like the most viable option considering its current underutilisation due to cold and damp conditions. Despite its drawbacks, its ample size and location make it a promising site for a well-sized supermarket and carpark, addressing the needs of our 18,000-strong population within the ward. Waitaha Reserve, while a very popular option, might lack the necessary space for a sufficiently sized supermarket, leading to potential limitations.

Waipuna Park, on the other hand, holds immense value due to its proximity to Ohauiti, Hairini, and Maungatapu. However, it has many sports fields which are crucial to our community. Preserving this space is vital for local sports activities. However, I am open to new ideas and locations. From my door knocking and my survey I will find out what our community wants collectively to make a joint decision.

Given the commissioners' plans to sell land/carpark buildings to alleviate debt, navigating the next council board for approval should be an easy process. Either selling the land or leasing it out is a win-win for the council and community. Not to mention the extra commerical rates the council would collect on the building. I aim to make substantial progress by the end of 2024, our community shouldn't have to wait any longer.

Overcoming Challenges and Moving Forward

While the idea of utilising council land for commercial purposes might raise questions, it's essential to view it as an opportunity rather than an impediment. Collaborative efforts between the council, residents, and potential investors can address concerns and ensure that the development aligns with the community's values and needs.

Transparent dialogue, community engagement, and feasibility studies become integral in navigating regulatory frameworks and garnering support for the project. Emphasising the mutual benefits, such as increased property values, enhanced community services, and local economic growth, can garner widespread support for this initiative.

In conclusion, the Welcome Bay ward, is poised for further growth with the introduction of a local supermarket. Building on council land emerges as the beacon guiding this transformation—a pragmatic and community-centric approach that promises to meet the fundamental needs of residents.

In the journey towards a more self-sufficient and connected community, utilising council land for the establishment of a supermarket isn't just a necessity; it's a step towards a more vibrant and resilient place we call home. My commitment to you is to make this a reality.

Photo cred: New World