Dairy stops sell­ing cig­a­rettes

Waikato Times - - FRONT PAGE - PHILLIPA YALDEN

The first two times, they came with guns. Then it was a ham­mer. And last Satur­day morn­ing, an axe.

Af­ter be­ing robbed and ram­raided 10 times, Tao Liu has had enough. He’s given up the smokes.

The owner of the Te Kowhai Food Cen­tre is mak­ing a bold move, but he reck­ons it’s the only way to put off the rob­bers.

He knows it could be a blow to his liveli­hood.

‘‘But com­pared to loss of life, I have to. Be­fore it was just a job, but now it’s very danger­ous.

‘‘I want to sell them, but for the The Jacinda ef­fect hit Hamil­ton for the fi­nal time yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

Nearly 600 peo­ple filled Clarence Street Theatre as the count­down to Satur­day’s gen­eral elec­tion heads into the fi­nal five days.

Ardern was greeted by young and old wear­ing red and black in her ‘‘old back­yard’’.

The 37-year-old touched on hav­ing been born in Hamil­ton, where she spent her first four years in Dins­dale be­fore her fam­ily moved to Mor­rinsville.

‘‘I have never had spon­ta­neous ap­plause for Dins­dale be­fore.’’

Hamil­ton was her big smoke in her younger years.

‘‘I spent many, many hours sit­ting in Founders Theatre watch­ing my sis­ter’s jazz bal­let recitals and many more hours do­ing laps up and down Vic­to­ria Street in my friend’s car as that is what bo­gans did.’’

Ardern spoke for nearly 30 min­utes, touch­ing on Labour’s poli­cies again and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to vote early.

She has been push­ing the early vote, hav­ing bro­ken with tra­di­tion last week, vot­ing early her­self.

Elec­tion Com­mis­sion fig­ures show en­rol­ment in the 18-24 age group is well down, no­tably less than at the same time in 2014.

‘‘I would cer­tainly want to send the mes­sage if you’re wor­ried about your en­rol­ment details, go and vote early. You can en­rol and vote at the same time,’’ Ardern said in re­ply to a ques­tion.

‘‘My view is very clear whether or not the gov­ern­ment safety, I have to do this.’’

The hus­band and fa­ther of two boys pur­chased the store in ru­ral Horotiu eight years ago. He used to get hit once or twice a year.

Rob­bers have come four times this year. Each time they are armed and wear masks.

‘‘We just run be­cause the law says we can’t do any­thing,’’ he says, pulling up his sleeve to re­veal a panic alarm he now wears on his wrist.

‘‘We had maybe two in three years. Now it’s 10 times. The first two times it was guns, sec­ond time a knife, and then an axe.

‘‘They take cig­a­rettes and money, choco­late and a cell­phone for the NZ Post.’’ changes this elec­tion – it will come down to turnout.’’

Those who came to lis­ten to Ardern liked what they heard.

‘‘It was bril­liant,’’ Hera Pierce said, ‘‘it was pos­i­tive. She shows a clear way for­ward. She can hear what the Maori are say­ing. There

Liu wasn’t work­ing the last time the store got hit, but says his worker was chased out­side and around the store by one of the is hope she is iden­ti­fy­ing the cracks and what hasn’t been work­ing for us as a whole.’’

‘‘It was in­spir­ing,’’ Bou­dine Bijl said. ‘‘She’s show­ing work­able so­lu­tions for the coun­try. It was great to hear from the leader her­self and I be­lieved her.’’ rob­bers armed with an axe.

The pair then robbed the store of $8000 in cig­a­rettes and to­bacco.

That was the fi­nal straw.

‘‘It was quite good,’’ Elisha Flem­ing said. ‘‘I haven’t voted yet, but I am lean­ing to­wards Labour but I’m not set on them.

‘‘I like what I heard. I came be­cause I want to hear from both sides so I can make a right and bal­anced judg­ment.’’

‘‘They are com­ing any time – we don’t know. It’s fright­en­ing.’’

Liu said he is now fac­ing ris­ing in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums af­ter los­ing his no-claims bonus. He’s lost thou­sands of dol­lars in cig­a­rettes and had to claim in­sur­ance to re­pair the store’s frontage af­ter two ram-raids. Each time he’s forked out $2500 in ex­cess.

‘‘Each time we have to pay. Now I have high in­sur­ance. It’s gone up, now it will go up again.’’

Te Kowhai lo­cal Shar­lene Decke, who once owned the dairy her­self, said the rob­beries were putting the com­mu­nity at risk too.

There is a day­care cen­tre and a pri­mary school within me­tres of the dairy, she said.

‘‘Our chil­dren are in dan­ger be­cause this is hap­pen­ing at 3pm on a Mon­day and Fri­day.

‘‘Those kids are get­ting out of school and how do we know that th­ese [guys] aren’t go­ing to take off in a car and hit one of our chil­dren? As a com­mu­nity, all of our lives are in dan­ger.’’

Decke said Liu was tak­ing a risk fi­nan­cially, but the com­mu­nity would stand be­hind him.

‘‘By Tao tak­ing the stance and get­ting rid of the cig­a­rettes, which is a huge stance be­cause it will im­pact on Tao’s in­come.

‘‘It’s not just peo­ple com­ing in to buy cig­a­rettes, they will gen­er­ally buy some­thing to munch on.

‘‘We are to­tally be­hind him in this move.’’

She said there was even a risk that Liu would lose the busi­ness.

‘‘If that were the case, we would lose our pin­na­cle hub in the com­mu­nity.’’

Decke had talked to po­lice, who told her they be­lieve the dairy is a tar­get be­cause of its ru­ral lo­ca­tion and mul­ti­ple es­cape routes.

‘‘Per­haps if we get cam­eras mounted com­ing into the town and out of the town, per­haps we could cap­ture th­ese peo­ple’s faces.’’

De­tec­tive Sergeant Scott Neil­son said po­lice are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing last Satur­day’s rob­bery, which was linked to an ear­lier rob­bery at the Z En­ergy ser­vice sta­tion in Dins­dale.

JO LINES-MACKEN­ZIE

PHOTO: MARK TAY­LOR/STUFF

At Hamil­ton’s Clarence Street Theatre yes­ter­day, the crowd were ea­ger to get close to Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern.

PHOTO: CHRIS­TEL YARDLEY/STUFF

Te Kowhai Food Cen­tre owner Tao Liu is sick of get­ting robbed so he’s giv­ing up to­bacco.

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