John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Long-awaited supermarket tipped for Welcome Bay

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Welcome Bay Community Centre manager Anna Larsen says a supermarket would be welcomed by the area's residents. Photo/Andrew Warner.
Welcome Bay Community Centre manager Anna Larsen says a supermarket would be welcomed by the area's residents. Photo/Andrew Warner.

Welcome Bay could have its own supermarket within three years if negotiations are successful between the council and one of the country's supermarket chains.

Progress on achieving the top of Welcome Bay residents' wish list has been outlined by the area's council representatives Kelvin Clout and Bill Grainger.

It follows the release of information to the Bay of Plenty Times relating to confidential council briefings. A topic dealt with on March 29 was ''Welcome Bay supermarket feasibility''.

Responding to questions about the topic, Cr Clout said Foodstuffs and Progressive supermarket chains were looking at their options for Welcome Bay.

He said they were talking to the council about different areas of land in Welcome Bay that they would like to consider for sites for a supermarket.

''I am very optimistic,'' he said.

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A survey of 81 people by the Welcome Bay Community Centre last year revealed that a supermarket was top of the amenities wish list.

Centre manager Anna Larsen said there was an undeniable community desire for a supermarket. There was no significant employment in Welcome Bay other than schools and home-based businesses.

Many residents currently dropped into supermarkets on their way to and from work, but having their own supermarket would make it easier for weekend or after-hours shopping, she said.

''There would definitely be a convenience factor.''

Ms Larsen said a couple of men in suits have been spotted wandering around Owens Park earlier this year.

The council last year deferred a decision to drain the park until the 2017-18 Annual Plan round. A clever supermarket design meant they could put in some really nice recreational features for the community, she said.

Cr Clout said the market was only big enough for one supermarket at Welcome Bay and they were only talking about council-owned land because there were no other suitable sites. The council would be in a position to settle on the best proposal once the proposals were in.

He expected a decision would be made early next year following a process of public consultation. It was likely that Welcome Bay could have a supermarket within the next three years.

''There is a great willingness by the two chains to invest and there are plenty of opportunities for community consultation. It is council-owned land, but I can't be more specific than that.

''There are a number of sites that we are looking at in conjunction with the supermarket chains...we will be working in the best interests of the community. There is clearly a demand for a supermarket.''

He said the council wanted to ensure that there would still be viable and accessible community facilities. For instance, if the supermarket took out a children's playground, the playground would be replaced elsewhere.

Cr Grainger said he was always getting asked when the suburb would get a supermarket and it had become part of his election campaign.

He was unable to go into details about the sites but agreed that a site in Ohauiti Rd was a possibility. There were four or five different possibilities.

''There could be a piece of reserve land that is suitable...it is a matter of working with them. I want it to happen and I will do the best I can to make it happen - I give it a good chance.''

Foodstuff's spokesperson Antoinette Laird confirmed they were liaising with the council around potential opportunities in the Welcome Bay area.

Countdown's property manager Adrian Walker said they were in discussions with the council. ''However it is too early to discuss this further.''

- Bay of Plenty Times

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