Countdown to set up in ex-fire base

By Peter de Graaf

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Fencing has gone up around the old Paihia fire station ahead of its conversion into a Countdown store.Photo/Supplied
Fencing has gone up around the old Paihia fire station ahead of its conversion into a Countdown store.Photo/Supplied

Paihia's old fire station is to be converted into a temporary Countdown store when the town's only supermarket closes next month.

Countdown and its predecessor Woolworths have occupied a Puketona Rd building for the past 13 years, but the company will leave when the current lease expires at the end of July.

The firm has now found a temporary premises in the form of Paihia's old fire station on Williams Rd. Owned by council-controlled company Far North Holdings, the station has been up for lease since the brigade moved out last year.

Meanwhile, speculation continues over the fate of the Countdown building. New World's parent company, Foodstuffs, denies it is moving in - but it is still possible a franchise operator is planning to set up under the New World or Pak 'n Save banner.

Countdown's Bay of Islands area manager Joanne McNaught said work had started on converting the former fire station into a small-format shop. It was not a perfect solution but would allow Countdown to keep up a presence in the Paihia/Waitangi area.

The shop would be open seven days and stock produce, meat, seafood, dairy, baked and dry goods, beer and wine at normal Countdown prices. It was due to open on August 1.

The company was still in talks with the landlord, but if it did have to close the Puketona Rd store it would offer online shopping with no delivery charges as long as there was no full-service supermarket in town.

Ms McNaught hoped all staff could be retained, either at the temporary shop or the Kerikeri and Kaikohe supermarkets.

If the company was able to stay at Puketona Rd it would decide in mid-July what to do with the fire station.

Far North Holdings chief executive Andy Nock said he was pleased to be able to help a business that employed many people and provided an essential service.

The company had owned the 230sq m fire station since a land-swap with the Fire Service in 2011 and it had been up for lease since 2013.

It was to have been converted into a cafe and bar but that is now on hold.

A group had been hoping to convert it into a community centre offering youth and arts activities.

Countdown's lease will be for one year initially but with rights of renewal.

Paihia's only other sizeable grocery store is the Four Square on Williams Rd. Apart from Haruru Falls, about 4km inland from Paihia, undeveloped commercial land is in short supply in the area.

- Northern Advocate

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