New World not after Countdown premises
The company that owns the New World chain of supermarkets has quashed rumours it is moving into the building due to be vacated by Paihia's Countdown next month.
Last week, the Advocate reported that Countdown had been told to leave the Puketona Rd building it had leased for the past 13 years.
The exit date is at the end of July but the company is trying to gain an extension with its landlord. New World was rumoured to be moving in but a spokesman for parent company Foodstuffs NZ said that was incorrect.
"We'd love to bring the New World offering to Paihia but, at this stage, we don't have a suitable property lined up," spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue said.
She had also read about Countdown's lease ending but had no insights into the site's future use.
The building's owner could not be contacted yesterday.
First Union general secretary Robert Reid said he was concerned for the supermarket's 30-40 employees, 12 of whom were union members.
He hoped the workers were not pawns in the "supermarket wars" between New Zealand's two grocery giants.
"If Countdown can't get an extension on the lease, or find somewhere else, there will be a loss of jobs," Mr Reid said. "The nature of Paihia is that there's not much land to build even a small new supermarket."
Even if Countdown was replaced immediately by a rival store with the same number of staff, the wages coming into Paihia could drop.
"Countdown has had a bit of bad publicity about the way it treats suppliers but on the question of staff, Countdown workers are paid on average $16 an hour," he said.
"At New World most workers are not paid much more than the minimum of $14.25 - so even if New World took over and employed the same number of people, there'd be a whole lot of money coming out of the community."
The company had kept the union and staff fully briefed, he said. If Countdown had to close, he hoped the Far North District Council would "move heaven and earth" to help the firm find a new location.
The union was also ready to work with Countdown to find other jobs in Northland.
Woolworths first opened in Paihia in 2001 and re-branded to Countdown in 2009. The building is owned by a Kerikeri businessman and the land by the Te Tii (Waitangi) B3 Trust, no relation to the Waitangi National Trust which owns the land at the Treaty Grounds and the Copthorne Hotel. The expiring lease is for the building, not the land.
Meanwhile, the new Countdown store at the Regent in Whangarei is to open next week.