Who would be a dairy owner these days?

They work hard to earn an honest living but increasingly they are becoming a prime target for robbers looking for a quick pay day.

The perpetrators are not run-of-the-mill shoplifters. They're violent criminals - often desperate and unpredictable - who make their demands while wielding a weapon and making threats.

It must be a terrifying experience for victims.


That was the case for staff at Te Puke Four Square on Sunday night when a robber brandishing a large boning knife threatened a staff member and fled with hundreds of dollars from the till.

It was the latest in a string of robberies in the Bay of Plenty region. Two Tauranga dairies were targeted by armed robbers in a 23-hour period last month. The Kalah Bar in Ngongotaha has already been targeted twice this year.

Many jobs are dangerous but a number of factors mean dairy owners are particularly vulnerable. They work long hours and often work alone.

They are also often family businesses - in which husbands and wives and their children often share the duties involved in running a store. How frightening must it be when a robber brandishing a weapon walks into a store and the person behind the counter knows their loved ones are nearby?

There is no easy answer for those working at the coal face when it comes to taking steps to improve safety unless they want to follow the lead of gas stations, whose employees serve from behind protective glass when it comes to after-hours service.

At the very least, as in the case of the robbery of Te Puke Four Square, a good surveillance system needs to be in place.

Perhaps, it's also time though for dairies to weigh up the benefit-cost of selling cigarettes.