Fearful South Brighton dairy owner plans to close doors forever – Otago Daily Times | Ad On Picture

A Christchurch dairy owner has confirmed he will close his doors and return to India after Wednesday night’s killing, regardless of whether his business is sold.

Two other dairy owners also want to quit, but are unable to do so due to rent restrictions and a struggling market.

Dairies were one of many targets for criminals for most of 2022.

The industry reached a turning point on Thursday when it was revealed that a newly married dairy worker had been killed in a violent robbery.

When South Brighton owner Mukesh Patel found out about the murder, he made an immediate decision

The owner plans to close the doors of his dairy for good in March next year and return to India.

“I don’t care if my business sells or not, I’ve had enough — my work isn’t more important than my life,” he said.

Mukesh has repeatedly warned his daughter and son-in-law against “wasting time” and selling their dairy products as well.

Three of Patel’s friends, all Christchurch entrepreneurs, have left New Zealand for Australia.

He said the reason they left was because they felt unsafe.

“At the end of the day, if there’s no government support, it’s just not worth it,” he said.

“I’ve had enough now.”

Patel has owned his dairy in South Brighton for 19 years – he was planning to retire in two years once he is entitled to his pension but he will speed up the process as he lives in fear and is ’round the clock’ lives.

Although he’s managed to avoid incidents so far, Patel said he’s not waiting for his dairy to be targeted next.

“Why will I stay in fear for the last two years? It’s just too risky to wait and if something happens my pension money will be lost,” he said.

“I close a little after six [each night]I just don’t want to put myself through the trouble.”

Ten miles away in Sydenham, south of Christchurch, another dairy farmer wants out after being beaten five times in one week by various criminal groups.

Stephen, the shop’s owner, said he had endured last month his shop’s windows broken, goods stolen and serious financial loss as the incidents spanned a short period of time.

With his family struggling with mental health issues, Stephen doesn’t feel comfortable in the industry and wants to sell his shop.

But he’s stuck on a lease, which means he won’t be going anywhere until someone buys.

“I’m trying to leave, I want to sell but no one is taking [the shop],” he said.

“It is [been] enough for us it’s dangerous at the moment but we have a lease – you need to consider that. We can’t leave, but if there wasn’t a lease we would be gone now.”

Another dairy owner in New Brighton agreed that the sales process for dairies has become nearly impossible.

This is particularly difficult given the industry’s uncertainty surrounding the SmokeFree 2025 proposal, which would impose restrictions on the sale of cigarettes and create a licensing regime.

The owner was hit by a ram attack in September, his shop’s window frame was damaged and the customer inconvenience cost him a lot of business.

“We’ve had this business for a while, but the ramming attack made us so unsafe — it was an invasion of our property, our lives,” he said.

While the dairy landscape has turned pessimistic due to staff shortages and upcoming tobacco restrictions, the owner said safety was a key reason for selling the company.

Christchurch is awash with an oversupply of convenience stores with very little demand.

“The market is pretty tough right now. If you put one up for sale, [the advertisement] sits there for quite a while before anyone takes an interest in it. It’s so hard to find a buyer.”

Sunny Kaushal is the country’s advocate against crime in dairy and convenience stores on behalf of the Dairy and Business Owner’s Association.

A statement by Kaushal expressed his dissatisfaction with the government’s crime policy measures and called the country “lawless”.

He said the dairy worker’s death was “inevitable and unfortunately predictable”.

“We warned that someone would be seriously injured or killed. But all we get is radio silence from a government that has our blood on its hands.”

Speaking specifically about Prime Minister Ardern, Kaushal claimed the group never received a single response despite asking them to meet.

When asked about it on Thursday, Ardern told the media that the police minister met with Kaushal three weeks ago.

She also mentioned that there was “serious concern” about serious robberies, she dismissed the notion that she was being lenient on crime.

According to Ardern, she had met with Justice Secretary Kiri Allan and MSD Minister Carmel Sepuloni about what loopholes existed in the system and how they could be appropriately addressed to target offenders.

-By Nathan Morton

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