A former long-term councillor says Hastings District Council should “pull out all the stops” to attract a new supermarket into Flaxmere, even if that means considering reduced rates for a major supermarket.
New World Flaxmere is set to close its doors in less than two weeks’ time, leaving the suburb of 11,000 people - on the outskirts of Hastings - without a supermarket.
Hawke’s Bay App reported this week that talks between Hastings District Council and Woolworths NZ were “at an advanced stage” and Flaxmere was “poised to get a new Woolworths supermarket”, citing an anonymous source.
In response, a Woolworths NZ spokesperson said, “We have noted the closure of New World Flaxmere.
“While we’re always looking for new opportunities to open stores in communities across Aotearoa, we don’t have a Flaxmere proposal to share at the moment.
“We will update the local community if that changes.”
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said, with regard to a new supermarket, that “at this stage there isn’t anything that we can confirm that is ready to take and sign off on”.
“We are working with every option from co-op, to independent, to the major supermarket provider chains, to try and get a supermarket to Flaxmere,” Hazlehurst told Hawke’s Bay Today.
“The whole team is on this. We know that we don’t want to be without a supermarket in Flaxmere for very long, and we are working really hard on all options.”
As for discussions with Woolworths, she said, “We have had conversations with Woolworths now for the last 10 years.
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“We started in 2011 on this project to get a new supermarket for Flaxmere and so, for both Woolworths and Foodstuffs, our teams are working very, very closely with them to consider all options.”
She said the council was also working with developers on the prospect of building a new supermarket.
The lease for the ageing building which currently houses New World Flaxmere was up for renewal in March, and Foodstuffs North Island (which owns New World and Pak’nSave) decided not to take it up again.
The Flaxmere community has been outraged by news it is set to lose its only supermarket. Photo / Paul Taylor
In 2022, Foodstuffs North Island received resource consent for a New World to be built on vacant land behind the existing supermarket.
However, they pulled the plug on those $21 million plans, citing a changing economic environment.
Woolworths NZ (which is rebranding its Countdown chain to Woolworths this year) is the country’s only other major supermarket player, besides Foodstuffs.
Former HDC councillor Henare O’Keefe, who was a long-term Flaxmere ward councillor, said the council may have to look at “trade-offs” to get a deal across the line for a new supermarket such as Woolworths.
He said that may include offering lower rates or even a year without rates.
“If I was sitting around that Hastings council now, I would be saying ‘right, what can we do to encourage these people to come in here, what can we do differently’.
“I would pull out all the stops [but] at the same time you have to maintain the integrity of the ratepayers.”
He said the obvious concern with a trade-off was “given the present economic climate I don’t think the ratepayer would have the inclination to entertain that idea” for reduced rates.
Hastings councillor Simon Nixon said the development site behind the existing New World was “ready to go” and zoned for commercial use.
Current Flaxmere ward councillor Henry Heke said the community deserved a new supermarket, but “at the moment there are no official details on any provider that is willing to sign a piece of paper”.
Gary Hamilton-Irvine is a Hawke’s Bay-based reporter who covers a range of news topics including business, councils, breaking news and cyclone recovery. He formerly worked at News Corp Australia.
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